In a general population the prevalence of sensory processing disorders is 1 in 20 according to literature by Lucy Miller OT. When you talk about the autism spectrum disorders, this number goes to much higher levels although an actual prevalence rate has not been determined due to the controversy about the reality of the disorder.
While not everyone believes in a sensory processing disorder (also known as a sensory integration disorder), their is belief that there can be significant sensory processing deficits for individuals in the autism spectrum and ADHD. This is important because sensory issues can and do affect how well these children and adolescents tolerate their environments. The more overwhelmed they feel, the less they will be able to interact with their environment. Some may run away, some may lash out, and others will just shut down where they are.
I found this video on sensory overload that I think will help others “feel” for just a couple of minutes what it feels like to be in a situation where processing is impaired due to too much information coming in at once.
When I talk about Never Assume, like in my book, I am referencing the need to really find out what is behind the behaviors we notice. We need to take the time to think about various possible reasons that are triggering a fight or flight response in the child or adolescent. By truly understanding the source(s) of the behaviors, we can begin to develop empathy and interventions to improve the quality of life for him.
Next time you find yourself getting upset at a child for inappropriate behavior, please take a moment to consider a why other than “Because he is a brat” or “He is just trying to ruin my day.” You will be surprised by what you come up with and how that changes your response/reaction.