Distinguishing Sensory Processing Disorder from Autism

Hi everyone, 

I came across this article and I thought it was a good one to share! Although Autism awareness is on the rise, fewer people know about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). If you would like some general information about SPD and Autism, check out the websites pasted below: 

Autism: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

SPD: http://www.spdfoundation.net/about-sensory-processing-disorder.html

Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD) and autism (ASD) are two conditions that can exist one without the other or they can be comorbid. Making a clear distinction between the two is important especially since SPD can look like autism. SPD is diagnosed by an occupational therapist that is trained in sensory integration. A child with SPD can easily be misdiagnosed for a child with ASD due to sensory processing problems/symptoms children with autism experience. As I have defined in previous blogs, ASD is a neurological disorder that affects normal brain function and significantly impacts development of the person’s communication and social interaction skills. SPD was formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction.” Our neurological system helps process signals received from our senses by turning them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Therefore, SPD affects how a person receives, integrates and makes sense of sensory information.

According to the Sensory Processing Disorders Organization, 1 in 20 children suffer from SPD. In addition, high rates of SPD are often found in children with autism. However, according to the SPD Foundation most children with SPD do not have autism. They are described as two separate conditions. Consequent to similarities, children with SPD run the risk of misdiagnosis.

Here are some ways to distinguish SPD in young children, as the characteristics below are unique to SPD. As always, feel free to post any questions. 🙂

  • Problems eating
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Extremely irritable when I dress him/her; seems to be uncomfortable in clothes.
  • Rarely plays with toys, especially those requiring dexterity
  • Difficulty shifting focus from one object/activity to another
  • Does not notice pain or is slow to respond when hurt
  • Resists cuddling, arches back away from the person holding him
  • Cannot calm self by sucking on a pacifier, looking at toys, or listening to my voice
  • Has a “floppy” body, bumps into things and has poor balance
  • Does little or no babbling, vocalizing
  • Is easily startled
  • Extremely active and is constantly moving body/limbs or runs endlessly
  • Seems to be delayed in crawling, standing, walking or running


Reference: Ospina, Darlida. “Distinguishing Sensory Processing Disorders and Autism.”Speaking of Autism: Across Contexts and Ages :. AdvanceWeb, 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2014. http://community.advanceweb.com/blogs/sp_12/archive/2014/02/13/distinguishing-sensory-processing-disorders-and-autism.aspx?utm_campaign=964904&utm_content=9568532868&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Emailvision>.



What is the difference between Auditory Processing and Language Processing? Is there a difference?

Hi everyone!

I know a while back, we posted on this blog about the disorder known as Auditory Processing Disorder, which is a deficit in the formation of processing of audible signals not attributed to impaired hearing, sensitivity or intellectual impairment. Often times, an auditory processing disorder can coexist with a language processing disorder. Since verbal  language is presented via the auditory modality, an individual who is having difficulty processing the sounds that make up speech may also have a difficult time processing the meaning of the speaker’s message.  However,  there are various ways to formulate and produce language, such as body language, sign language, written material that do not require language to be presented via the auditory modality. These examples highlight the fact that language processing exists in tandem with auditory processing, but also independent from it.

Below, I’ve linked an article written by a Speech-language pathologist about processing difficulties and there are some helpful strategies for parents of children with these types of difficulties. Good luck and don’t hesitate to post any questions! 


Reinforcing phonological awareness skills at home.

The following is a list of ways to encourage children to play with sounds and words by
practicing different types of patterns (e.g., ones you see, one you hear, or ones that involve
movement, counting, and imitating).

• Play traditional hand-clapping games such as “Patty Cake” and “Miss Mary Mack.”

• Gather paper and crayons and have your child draw a picture of a rhyming sentence such as “Dad is glad,” or “A
frog sat on the log.” Talk about the rhyming words and how they sound alike. Have the child think of other words that
rhyme and make up his/her own sentence using new rhyming words.

• Give the child four words, three of which rhyme. Ask the child to identify the word that does not rhyme. For example,
if you said “bell, box, fell, tell,” the child would identify “box” as the word that does not rhyme with the others.

• When reading books to your child that contain rhyming words, emphasize the rhyming words as you read. Dr. Seuss books are great for this activity. After reading a book, ask your child to remember as many of the rhyming words as he/she can.

• While sitting around the dinner table, play a game of “Telephone.” Whisper a 5–7 word sentence in the person’s ear to your right and have that person whisper in the ear of the person to his/her right. Continue until each member of the dinner table has a chance to
listen and whisper. The last person to hear the sentence says it aloud.

• While riding in the car, say a sentence to your child but leave the last word blank. Ask your child to provide a rhyming word. For example, say “I see a dog on a _______.” Your child could say, “log,” “hog,” “bog,” or “frog.”

• Tap out the individual words in a sentence. For the sentence, “The sun is shining,” you would tap or clap four times. When the child is able to count the words in a sentence, clap out the syllables in a word and then the sounds in a word.

• Buy inexpensive beads and string at a craft store. Give your child some string and beads and have him or her tie a knot at one end. Say a word and have your child string one bead for each sound he/she hears in the word. You could also use this activity and have the child string beads on the string for each syllable he or she hears. For example, the word “can” would receive three beads when counting sounds and one bead when counting syllables.

Have fun reinforcing these important skills this weekend!


Reference: “Phonological Awareness.” Super Duper Publications. SuperDuperInc, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <http://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/p

Phonological Awareness

Hi everyone! 

Since I posted about literacy last week, I’d like to share some information about phonological awareness skills as they’re closely linked to literacy skills. 

What is phonological awareness?

Phonological awareness skills are important in order to develop good reading skills. 

Having good phonological awareness skills means that a child is able to manipulate sounds and
words, or “play” with sounds and words. For example, a teacher or speech-language pathologist
might ask a child to break the word “cat” into individual sounds: “c-a-t.”

Phonological awareness includes the following skills:
• Recognizing when words rhyme (e.g., “Do ‘cat’ and ‘shoe’
rhyme?”) and coming up with a word that rhymes (e.g.,
“What rhymes with ‘key’?”)
• Segmentation of words in sentences (e.g., “Clap for each
word you hear in the sentence ‘The dog is furry.’”)
• Blending syllables (e.g., “I am going to say parts of a
word. Tell me what the word is. ‘Pan-da.’”)
• Segmentation of syllables (e.g., “Clap for each syllable
you hear in the word ‘refrigerator.’”)
• Deletion of syllables (e.g., “Say the word ‘strawberry.’
Now say it without saying ‘straw.’”)
• Identifying sounds in words (e.g., “What sound do you hear at the end of ‘tulip’?”)
• Blending sounds (e.g., “Put these sounds together to make a word. ‘D-oo-r.’”)
• Segmentation of sounds (e.g., “Tell me each sound you hear in the word ‘cat’?”)
• Deletion of sounds (e.g., “Say ‘chair.’ Now say it without the ‘ch.’”)
• Addition of sounds (e.g., “Say ‘cook.’ Now say it with an ‘e’ at the end.”)
• Manipulation of sounds (e.g., “Change the ‘s’ in ‘sad’ to a ‘d’ and say the new word.”)

Why are these skills important?

Phonological awareness is important because it is a basis for reading. Children begin to
read by listening to others read aloud, then recognizing sounds in words, sounding words out for
themselves, recognizing familiar words, and so on. By engaging in word play, children learn to
recognize patterns among words and use this knowledge to read and build words.

Stay tuned for my next post about ways to work on these important skills at home! 🙂


Reference: “Phonological Awareness.” Super Duper Publications. SuperDuperInc, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <http://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/p

March Into Literacy!

Hi everyone, since March is literacy month, many schools have been doing various things to promote literacy in school aged children. Even within our speech offices, we have been promoting literacy by rewarding reading, as well as reading to our patients in the waiting rooms. Today I wanted to share some tips for improving literacy in younger children, as I think that literacy skills in the 0-3 year population might sometimes be overlooked!

Early literacy skills does not mean reading and writing, but the exposure to materials such as books, paper and crayons are excellent building blocks for language, reading and development. Here are some things you can do with your little one to promote early literacy skills:  

Make Sharing Books Part of Every Day

  • Make reading a part of everyday by reading or sharing stories at bedtime or on the bus.
  • Talk or sing about the pictures. You don’t have to read word for word to tell the story.
  • Even a few minutes of reading is okay! Many young children can only pay attention for so long, and that’s okay. As they get older they will be able to sit and pay attention for longer.
  • Let your child manipulate the book, hold it, or turn the pages.
  • If you are reading the story word for word, run your finger along the words as you read from left to right.
  • Create voices for story characters to make the story come alive.
  • Ask questions and allow your child to ask and answer questions too. Use this opportunity to talk about familiar activities, people and objects that could help to create a personal connection with the story.
  • Let your child tell the story. Children can make up their own story by looking at the pictures, or if they’ve memorized the story they can retell it from memory in their own words!


Last but not least, remember to have fun. Learning by copying the behaviors of others is one of the main ways children learn. Children can learn from you that books are fun. This is an important ingredient in learning to read.

I hope you enjoy fostering your child’s literacy skills not only in the month of March but all year round!


Reference: Early Literacy. (n.d.). zerotothree.org. Retrieved March 16, 2014, from http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-language-literacy/earlyliteracy2pagehandout.pdf

Cluttering: the other fluency disorder!

Hi everyone! Last week I posted about stuttering, which is a fluency disorder that many people are familiar with. There’s also another fluency disorder that many people have never heard about. It’s called cluttering, and here are some facts about it: 


What is Cluttering?


Cluttering is a fluency disorder in which an individual’s speech is perceived as too fast, too irregular, or both.  People who clutter can be characterized as having disorganized speech.  They typically use many fillers and have more hesitations, revisions or other breaks in speech compared with normal speakers. 


To the listener, a person with a cluttering disorder seems to be unsure of what they are trying to say.  However, the person cluttering is often not aware of the existence of their disorder.  


Cluttering is a very unique disorder in that some of its characteristics can initially resemble another disorder such as apraxia, or more commonly, stuttering.

In addition, cluttering is also likely to coexist with stuttering or other speech and/or language disorders.

Characteristics of Cluttering


  • Rapid speech rate that negatively affects other aspects of communication.
  • Excessive disfluencies, including revisions
  • Monotone voice
  • Indistinct “mumbling” like speech.
  • Errors occurring in normal connected speech that do not appear during single word utterances or more slowly produced speech.
  • Poor thought organization and expression
  • Short attention span, hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Errors where sounds are transposed within a word, phrase or sentence.
  • Telescoped errors where sounds and even syllables are missing from words.
  • Lack of awareness of speech errors. Clutterers are often surprised when communicative partners don’t understand them.


How is Cluttering Diagnosed?


      In order for cluttering to be successfully treated, it needs to be accurately diagnosed.  Assessment of cluttering is very extensive and may require multiple sessions.  Often, an entire diagnostic team will be utilized. The Speech-Language Pathologist will  then need to collaborate with other professionals such as classroom teachers, psychologists, special education teachers and at times a neuropsychologist.

      During the diagnostic sessions, a variety of speech areas will be analyzed, including the client’s speech rate, fluency, articulation, language and voice.  In addition, the client will likely be asked to perform a variety of rote tasks such as counting, reciting memorized material, singing, oral reading and spontaneous speech.

      It is crucial for the SLP and the diagnostic team to determine whether stuttering or any other disorders are present in conjunction with the cluttering. If an additional disorder does present, treatment of the cluttering symptoms may have to wait until any and all other disorders have been successfully treated.

How is Cluttering Treated?

Therapy designs for treating cluttering will be tailored to the unique and specific needs of the client. However, the following list of suggested strategies are often employed:

  • Slowing speech rate
  • Heightening monitoring/client’s awareness of errors
  • Using clear articulation
  • Using acceptable, organized language
  • Interacting with listeners
  • Speaking naturally
  • Reducing excessive disfluencies


Roth, F. P., & Worthington, C. K. (2005). Treatment resource manual for speech-language pathology (3rd ed.). Australia: Thomson Delmar Learning.


Stuttering Foundation: A Nonprofit Organization Helping Those Who Stutter. (n.d.). Stuttering Foundation: A Nonprofit Organization Helping Those Who Stutter. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from http://www.stutteringhelp.org/


The ASHA Leader. (n.d.). Cluttering Updated. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from http://www.asha.org/Publications/leader/2003

Risk Factors for Sutttering

Hi everyone!

Last week I posted about stuttering (a fluency disorder), and a few ways to determine whether your child’s disfluencies are mild, moderate or severe. Today I wanted to share some more information for those of you who think your child is disfluent, but are still not sure if an evaluation is necessary. After all, we’ve all heard stories about individuals who used to experience disfluent speech and ended up outgrowing it. While this is true, that many children experience some level of mild disfluency and later outgrow it, some unfortunately do not. Studies further indicate, that in the case where a child’s stuttering persists, early diagnosis and treatment has immense value. 

Below you will find a link for an article from USA Today that talks a little more about early treatment for stuttering. I’ve also pasted a link below of a very helpful page from the Stuttering Foundation that talks about risk factors for stuttering. If one or more of these factors apply to your child, you should be more concerned as these are indicators that the stuttering problem could be persistent. 

Here is the link for the USA Today article on the value of early stuttering treatment: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/15/stuttering-treatment/2808949/

And please visit this page of the Stuttering Foundation’s website to read more about risk factors for stuttering: http://www.stutteringhelp.org/risk-factors