A Parent’s Guide on the Difference between ADHD and SPD

If your child continually fidgets, melts down, or has trouble concentrating, you may wonder if they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, the reasons for these behaviors might be due to an over- or under-sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, flavors, or textures, which is known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

It can sometimes be hard to tell whether a child is suffering from ADHD or SPD, as the symptoms can be similar. The treatment methods differ, however, so it is crucial that you get an accurate diagnosis. This article breaks down some of the key differences between ADHD and SPD.

A Parent’s Guide on the Difference between ADHD and SPD

Sensory Processing Disorder

As kids develop, they are surrounded by an almost infinite amount of new sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and textures. For most kids, this is a fascinating time, as they start to adapt and react to these new sensory inputs. However, for some kids, this can be an overwhelming or underwhelming experience.

The reason for this is that some children are unable to accurately process the sensory inputs, which causes them to respond in an “abnormal” way. Kids with SPD may have trouble focusing because they are being overwhelmed by different sensory inputs, which makes noisy or busy environments unbearable. As a result, they may act out or become aggressive as they try to cope with the situation.

On the other hand, if the child is under-sensitive, they may become obsessed with certain stimuli or always want to touch certain people or things. In some cases, they might be clumsy or loud and may often show a disregard for pain or for dangerous situations. It can be challenging for them to integrate at school, as they have trouble identifying personal space or playing too roughly.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD is a developmental disorder that may be caused by genetic factors or issues with brain function. In general, kids with ADHD will find it difficult to focus for long periods of time. The lack of focus will often mean that they have trouble organizing themselves and completing tasks. In some cases, they will avoid or forget to do tasks altogether, such as homework.

A kid with ADHD will often seem as if they are not paying attention or are daydreaming; they can easily become bored and restless, making a school environment very challenging for them. As a result, they will usually be given extra time for tests and will benefit from more structured environments.


It is essential that you speak to your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis, as the treatments are different for these two conditions. ADHD is usually treated with a mixture of medication and behavioral therapy to manage the symptoms. However, medication is not often the first choice for SPD.

Occupational and behavioral therapy will be used to help the child cope better with challenging situations and manage their actions. Medication will only be used if the child is suffering from anxiety as a result of the disorder.