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Sensory Processing Disorder and Gifted?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hi All!  I would love any help with information or if anyone has the same sort of things they've observed.


Background: DS is 5 years old and in Pre-Kindergarten.


Sensory Precursors: My DS was a late crawler (1 year), pulled chunks of hair out and stuck into his mouth while sucking on his fingers in a total relaxed state (odd I know; it didn't hurt him and was sensory related), and for a good year and a half now he flaps his hands and runs back and forth.  



- extremely early and advanced verbal skills

- amazing memory

- reasoning skills that are far above his years

- very numbers oriented

- imaginary friends since age 2 (they come and go - even to school with him ;-))

- unique interests for his age: - currently into memorizing everyone's addresses, putting them into google earth then adding them to his contact lists on devices like iPad (contact list is his favorite device activity); very into geography and maps; around 18 months or so his big interest was garage doors, etc.

- not really into typical toys for children, although he will play with them briefly 

- every teacher has always told me he's "really, really smart" as in unusually, and he "marches to the beat of his own drum."

- he connects similarities of things that I can't even begin to have seen until he shows them to me...it amazes me.  This happens all the time.

- prefers to talk to the teachers at school and has one good friend

- not very social at school but is well liked

- would prefer to stay home with me then be at school (makes me sad but this isn't an option)

- has zero interest in team activities like soccer.  Played last year and never talked to teammates

- very social with kids he knows well and is comfortable with

- there's more...just can't think!


When he started flapping and running back and forth we got a bit perplexed.  I used to teach special ed and knew it seemed autistic spectrum, but he doesn't exactly fit that.  His interests are very unique and intense.  He seems very bright--not just bright.  His Pre-K teacher told me that he wasn't just smart, but "gifted."  He has a hard time relating to the other kids in his class.  He is just on another wave length.  Etc.  


So our pedi wanted him to go to a developmental specialist who discovered he was NOT Au spectrum which was had deducted, but was about a year behind on fine motor.  We had an OT eval and he has SPD with vestibular issues, along with not crossing his midline (bilateral issues).  YAY for some answers on the sensory quirkiness!  I'm convinced he has a mild case b/c besides the occasional running back and forth, flapping in class (during free centers), he hasn't had it interrupt his classroom function.  The developmental specialist also wanted him IQ tested.  She said he was "too silly and engaging" to be AS, but his interests and cognitive ability seemed definitely above a 5 year old.  


Sorry for the novel, BUT does anyone have a child dealing with what they think is SPD and Gifted?  Not sure my son is even gifted but we've been told he's different (cognitive-wise) since he was a toddler.  Adults love him.  I'm trying to really determine if these gifted-like traits are just SPD-related or if he's truly a gifted child.  If he is, it will determine his schooling route.


Thanks if you read all of this...I'm sorry it was so long.  I can't find anyone out there I know who has a kid like mine, so I'd love to find anyone with common ground.


post #2 of 20
Thread Starter 

Not sure if I made any sense...sorry.  :-(


I was just curious if anyone out there has a child who is gifted AND has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) OR does it sound more like my child's bright mind is just related to him having that and indeed he's not gifted?  The Pedatric Developmental Specialist mentioned IQ testing around age 7.  He's currently newly 5.  


I've read that SPD and gifted can be simultaneous but am curious to see if any moms out there have a kid that is.  :-)


Thank you!

post #3 of 20

Yes, both of my kids have sensory issues and are gifted.  DS has an SPD diagnosis, while DD's may not meet criteria but play a role in her life (we haven't had her eval'd for SPD).


What are the quals of the developmental person?


SPD is not correlated to IQ, although you should google Dabrowski's Overexcitabilities to see gifted + sensitive.  IQ is not a rule in or out for an ASD.  If you think about it this way, SPD, ASD, giftedness, ADHD and others are all brain-based/neurological issues.  They can overlap, co-exist, exist separately, or look alike.

post #4 of 20


Ds has an SPD diagnosis -- sounds very similar to your son, OP. Vestibular issues, didn't cross the midline, weak core tone and motor planning issues. 2 years of OT (from just after his 5th birthday until he turned 7) made a big difference. He's now more or less on par with his peers, though he's never going to be an athletic superstar. Our ds doesn't sound as bright as your son -- he's gifted verbally, and slightly above average in math. Like your son, he's gone through periods of obsessions (garbage trucks, fire trucks, bus lines, penguins, now sports).


Dd has sensory issues, but like with joensally's daughter, we haven't had her tested/treated. She's just highly sensitive, and very bright.


I don't know if you've done any reading on SPD, but I like the book "Sensational Kids". I also got a lot out of the book "The Highly Sensitive Child" .



post #5 of 20

Hi KRCLove!  Welcome! 


I can relate to much of what you've written.  My DS is not quite 3, so not confirmed gifted, but I'm assuming he is given his advanced knowledge, reasoning, and reading skills for his age.  He has also been in PT and OT for delayed gross motor skills and SPD.  He's better with these things now, but still behind in gross motor.  Like your son, adults love him, but he's and odd kid.  Other kids don't care much about his interests and he doesn't care much about their's.  Asperger's was mentioned by a few people early on. He did flap quite a bit, especially when excited or frustrated, but that has been decreasing lately.  I've discounted ASD at this point - he's just different from other kids.


So, yes, I think kids can definitely be gifted and have SPD.  I don't think the SPD could be making him cognitively advanced - if that's what you meant?

post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thank you so very much for the replies.  I already feel like some people "get" what I'm talking about and have kids with similar issues.  Woohoo!  I have only read the "Out of Sync Child."  It was a good read.  I'll get the other two.


The Developmental Specialist for Pediactrics doctor is the highly touted one for the city I live in.  She was fabulous!  She spent an hour and a half with our family, which really set me at ease.  We (DH and myself) had basically ruled out ASD b/c the more I researched it, the more I realized that while he has many of the traits, he is extremely empathetic, engaging and definitely cares deeply to get your attention in social situations--IF he's comfortable.  Silliness and a sense of humor are a big thing with him.  The Dev. Specialist Doctor (she's a doctor) just confirmed after a good while spent with him that he's not ASD.  She did notice the fine motor delay - he drew each side of a cross or "x" seperately, and she noted that his cognitive ability and interests weren't typical for a five-year-old.  


I will say, he doesn't read early.  He knows a ton of sight words based on names, addresses and geographical locations.  He is starting to pick up reading through that, but he is NOT an early ready since that is a sign of giftedness.  I think you guys DID answer the question in that I didn't know if his brain wiring was due to the SPD was what was causing him to also have this keen memory and extreme interest set based on things that were a bit different than the norm.


Here's one little example of how his brain works that unique (or to me at least):  We often go back to football games of our alma mater.  He loves going to the games.  Instead of watching the players he watches the words typed across the jumbotron and the numbers.  He stares, tells me what they say and asks if he can be the one to type them someday.  While this isn't some smart skill, it's a different thing to want to do with a football game going on before your eyes!


Other things he did as a child, starting at 2 that were quirky: 

- knew anyone's eye color whether they were standing there  or not if he'd met them before

- could tell you with musical sounds and outlining the shapes with his fingers what people's car lights looked like, who their lights matched and who's were different and how (bizarre but cute!)

- what everyone's car interior looked like, where the buttons were located, etc. like a map...only when he wasn't in the car. 

- knew his letters, etc. before 2 from playing with the Leapster Fridge DJ I guess...wasn't from my teaching him  ;-)

- etc.


Seems quirky and a bit ASD b/c he's not AU, but the social thing and silliness throw that out!  Anywho, he's our wonderful, DS and we adore him, but as his mom I've scratched my head trying to crack a code on if he's this or that.  He's who he is and it's great, but it's definitely a BIT different.  

post #7 of 20

One book I found helpful was the book "Quirky Kids" - if I remember correctly, it's aimed at parents whose children may or may not have Aspergers. But it's got some good info on when to worry, when to seek further evaluation and the like.


I wouldn't worry too much about the social stuff right now - he's pretty young. I've seen our son really grow in this area.




post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Lynn.  That book sounds great.  It's really hard.  I need to take into account what you said about social skills.  One moment he's running around, playing and giggling with kids.  Then another moment in a different environment he will barely look at them to say "hi."  I think, "is he shy?"  The one thing I do know is that not one teacher has even questioned him being on the spectrum.  It's just his father and I that have looked at each other time and time again and thought, "something's going on here."  


It was a breath of fresh air to figure out the SPD.  I'm hoping my son will be like yours and do wonders through therapy.  We don't expect or care about having a sports superstar, but it would be nice to do a team sport.  That's just not in the cards now, but maybe someday...


I think until we have his IQ formally tested I'll remain with all these questions.  The big fear in the back of my mind is that we will have him tested and his IQ will be of average intelligence, making me feel like a loon for thinking all this time that the other side of the coin (one side being sensory) was giftedness.  Until we were told he was likely "gifted" I seriously was just clueless.  When I was told that, in reading it made sense.  Again, though, his prek teacher said this...she's not a doctor!  She is wonderful, though.


Seriously, thank you to all who have taken time to answer me.  It is oddly hard to parent a child that you know has some oddball things going on, but is really just adorable as anything.  I can't explain what a blessing I feel to be his mama, but at the same time, it's confusing to know the right method of parenting when you're child seems anything but society's definition of "normal."  




post #9 of 20

This all sounds so familiar! My son has SPD, probable ADHD and possible Asperger's (it hasn't been ruled out, but doesn't quite fit him, either). We got lucky in that he got an awesome teacher who goes above and beyond to work with him.


I know your son's in Pre-K, but try to keep an eye on this stuff...these have been our tricky areas for my son:


Sound: He's ultra-sensitive to high-pitched and loud sounds, and crowds of people talking all at once drive him nuts. I bought him a set of ear covers for school (they're used for kids who go hunting, and block out sound very well!). When noise is too much, he just goes to his cubby and puts them on. 


Sight: He's very bothered by busy scenes. His single-sight-word vocabulary is insane (nearly 200 words at age 5 1/2), but he can't read a block of text because it's too busy. He just failed his county reading assessment. We've tried several work-arounds for him, and what we're doing now is using a large index card with a word-sized window cut out. He moves it along the text as he reads. It helps some, but he'll be starting visual therapy soon. He also has trouble finding things in a grouping, so his teacher has set his cubby/work area up in a very precise manner, and everything stays exactly where it belongs. No surprises, no problems.


Fine motor: He has silly putty in his cubby, and he uses it to warm up his hands before handwriting and art. He also has pencil grips on all of "his" pencils/markers that force him to hold them properly. 


Gross motor: His teacher set up an extra PE class for him each week. He does yoga, bear walking, all sorts of OT-type things.  He also has a floor chair he uses when they sit on the rug for floor time.


Needing a break: When he's overwhelmed, he's allowed to take a sensory break. His teacher has a variety of things he can do - sand table, shaving cream, sensory balls, clay, etc. When he's just ramped up and needs to work off energy, she either finds a class job for him to do or has him do push-ups. :)


We were shot down for an IEP last month, but there was enough concern to revisit the situation in May. Him failing the reading assessment may work in our favor. 


My best thought is to be friends with his teacher. Mrs. A. and I e-mail several times a week. When he makes a breakthrough in an area in which he struggles, she tells me immediately. When he has a bad day, she gives me a heads-up. Keeping each other in the loop has saved us a LOT of trouble. 

post #10 of 20

My daughter has SPD and is gifted, and is also possibly ADHD and possibly Asperger's.  So yes, totally possible to be more than one.  I've read elsewhere that gifted children may be more likely to be SPD than others, but I read it awhile ago and can't recall the source so that could be untrue.  Though there seem to be a fair number of 2E (twice exceptional: gifted with a disability) on this forum.  My daughter is a terror in kindergarten, though.  She is bored, unchallenged, has little impulse control, and no idea how much some of the stuff she does bugs other people.  I'm glad your son is doing well in school. 

post #11 of 20
Originally Posted by KRCLove View Post

Thanks, Lynn.  That book sounds great.  It's really hard.  I need to take into account what you said about social skills.  One moment he's running around, playing and giggling with kids.  Then another moment in a different environment he will barely look at them to say "hi."  I think, "is he shy?"  The one thing I do know is that not one teacher has even questioned him being on the spectrum.  It's just his father and I that have looked at each other time and time again and thought, "something's going on here."  


It was a breath of fresh air to figure out the SPD.  I'm hoping my son will be like yours and do wonders through therapy.  We don't expect or care about having a sports superstar, but it would be nice to do a team sport.  That's just not in the cards now, but maybe someday...


There was no way that, age 5, our son was ready for team sports. Even if he didn't have the sensory/motor issues, he's a major introvert and just didn't care about group activities. He was always the child at birthday parties who was sitting off to the side, watching. He wasn't unhappy, just didn't care to be part of a group. Even in kindergarten and first grade, he didn't care. He didn't converse with anyone outside the family.


We tried soccer in K, and he wasn't interested. In 2nd grade, that started to change. He wanted to do soccer, and so we did. He tried baseball and liked it. Since then, he's done 2-3 sports a year. Last year  in 4th grade, he did soccer, basketball and baseball. We've come to the conclusion that Little League is insane (not the coaches and the other parents were nice) because they play or practice 4-5 times a week. So, we did soccer and are doing basketball. He'll take the spring off from organized sports and I'm going to take him to a very small swim school so he can learn to swim. He's never the center of attention on the team, but the other kids like him and the coaches always really like him. He interacts with the other kids in his own quiet way. I'm glad we did baseball because he got to know a few kids who will be in middle school with him. Together with the kids from the neighborhood that he knows, I'm hoping that will give him a social group in middle school.




post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 

Lynn, I'm thinking the same thing about team sports...just his personality.  Again, less about caring about athletics and more into caring about social group situations.  In reality, he gets social groupings at school so I need to get over that.  Socially he sounds so much like your son.  And honestly, he does have friends he adores.  He just has either known them for forever or they immediately click.  They run around, giggle and act like normal children.  Then in other situations, he has no desire to talk to anyone.  It seems selective.  At church (which he loves) he talks to NO kids, only his teachers.  He also always would love his DS to be in rooms with him if they go to a special event, etc.  I think I need to stop nit-picking everything he does!


He's currently in our backyard talking to his current imaginary friend who for the first time ever is talking back to him in a high pitched voice.  Making me laugh so hard!  He then came in to tell me he was outside talking to himself about his friends.  He talks non-stop.  


I appreciate all of your answers.  I think he's just good ole' SPD and my large suspicion is that the other piece to the puzzle is he's gifted--the quirky kind (;-)).  I just have to wait for the right time to have him tested to truly confirm that.  There's a part of me that thinks his SPD could also be those darbrowski's overexcitabilities, but not crossing the midline with bilateral, precipotal (sp?) and vestibular issues seem to really just be SPD.  Honestly, though, he must have a pretty mild case b/c besides the running back and forth really excited-like and flapping, I wouldn't have noticed anything unusual.  We were more worried about his quirkiness, combined with some odd sensory issues like the running.  


Anywho, rambling.  Regarding the stuff I wrote about him above, does anyone think he sounds gifted?  

post #13 of 20


If you want a straight answer on the gifted question: only an IQ test will give you that (and probably rather in a few years as opposed to now), not people over the internet. But it sounds very likely, and it sounds like he fits right in here!


DS is 5 and in K, and when he became really hard to parent after his baby sister was born (aggression in preschool, violent explosions, tics like hairpulling- his and mine) we have had a child psychiatrist basically give us an ASD diagnosis after a two hour consultation with us (about an hour with him included). However, in the formal evaluation (ADI and ADOS) he scored WAY below the cutoffs. We have only recently had the written report and you could tell that they had NO idea what to actually say, it is a lot of whaffling around the issue, with a recommendation to "keep observing his development" (as if we we wouldn't, lol) and possibly "autistic traits" lurking out there. He does have some sensory issues (vestibular and auditory), is extremely sensitive, and yes, likely gifted, though we do not have an IQ test to prove it either and are not currently planning on one (depends on how our application for early entry into 1st grade is going, formal schooling starts in 1st where I live). The report says about the developmental testing they did (which included some IQ-test like subtests) that "overall, he scores in the average range" - which is what you get of course when you average scores from the 7th to the 99th percentile, lol again! We haven't been back, and DS has improved so remarkably (a few OT sessions, some supplements, mostly patience on our side and maturity on his) that we have not felt a need to do anything else, including pursuing further testing.


I think both Webb in "Dual diagnosis and misdiagnosis of gifted children" and the Eides in "The mislabeled child" mention SPD being a lot more frequent in highly gifted children. I am not sure what cutoff they are using for "highly gifted" and think it is mostly meant to make sure they are not talking about high average, bright children. I do not think DS is highly gifted (due to subtest scatter), or that his SPD makes him so, but  there seems to be a not infrequent combination of gifted traits, high sensitivity, sensory quirks, autistic-looking traits, distractibility and hyperfocus mimicking ADHD, tics etc. which may make a kid look like ASD but things like empathy and silliness rule this out. I am counting on maturity to help him deal with his quirks (God knows his parents needed time to find out how to deal with their own) and try to get all grown-ups in his life to be patient, including myself.


On the team sport thing: Remember it doesn't have to be a ball game, he could be on the swim team, or track, cycling if that is more up his alley. DS would right now be so wrong in soccer, I am not even trying, but he does enjoy swimming.

post #14 of 20

Our son who is 5 years old now was diagnosed with SPD, RAD, and probably GT when he was almost 3.  Really too young for a reliable IQ test and that wasn't why he was being assessed anyway.  However - he was recently back for an OT eval and she strongly suggests IQ testing.  We may wait a couple more years because he is extremely defiant and I am not sure they would get an accurate snapshot.


We liked Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis of gifted kids as well.  I also liked 5 Levels of Gifted by Deborah Ruf.

post #15 of 20

All your kids sound like my four year old son.  He has such an unusual scatter of characteristics - obviously high intelligence (huge vocabulary, early reader), mild autistic traits, sensory stuff, fixations, but extreme silliness (the class clown) that gets him in trouble but seems to rule out the autism spectrum.  But he also has below average eye contact and general lack of deference for rules and expectations.  He can't tell when he takes his silliness too far and is physically or mentally bothering someone.  I think that because he has a seven year old brother, he has learned lots of social and play skills that other autistic kids (who might be the oldest) don't have the opportunity to learn.  I do think that he may still have Asperger's. 

post #16 of 20

Two of my kids have SPD and one does not.  The one who does not is definately gifted and has shown clear signs since she was under a year old. I grew up with a freakishly gifted older brother and she reminds me of him so much - minus his ADHD.  (Which is how he slipped through).   All three kids do or did have articulation delays as well, so that blurred things as well for my two boys.  The SPD really made it harder for me to realize that my oldest was gifted.  I knew he was a smart kid, but I thought he was normal smart.  However, he'll be finishing Pre-Algebra before his 9th b-day and then moving onto Alg I so I've realized he is indeed gifted.  It also has been harder to realize he was gifted because it wasn't the same as DD.  She is an amazing sponge - but he still struggles with memorization sometimes.  Despite his giftedness, he still mixes up the days of the week and doesn't know the order of the months - yet his math skills are better than most adults!  His memory works when it's important to him, like with science.  It's him application and analysis where it was obvious he was gifted.  We had to sort through all his quirks first though because his SPD caused a lot of behavior issues.


With YDS, his SPD doesn't cause big behavior issues.  His speech is also more delayed than the other two were - and theirs was delayed.  So, as of now, at right before 3 years old, I am assuming that my youngest is just a normal smart kid. 


*As for ASD, I'm sure my oldest does not have it.  His social skills are amazing and always have been.  Even when he had behavior issues, his social graces made it possible for him to have lots of friends, even if he would hit them one minute and be best friends the next.  He's the kid on the playground organizing games with kids he doesn't know and including everyone - and making the game work.  Other than having the delayed speech and the SPD, he had no other signs.  I actually do wonder about my middle child sometimes - and she doesn't have SPD.  She has an inability to understand when others don't follow the rules.  She can make friends, but it's not a high priority at all.  They have to live up to her standards.  There's a LOT of rules in her world and others must follow them.  If they don't follow them, then they're not worth her wasting her time on them.  I'm not sure if it's a gifted thing, or a possible mild ASD thing, or just her personality.  There's not enough other possible signs for me to really worry about. 


I homeschool so I have not had my kids IQ tested.  I really don't think ODS would have tested as gifted at 5 - or would have been seen as gifted by teachers.  He's learning order is very untypical.  So it took some time for him both to deal with his SPD and also for the basic skills to catch up to the application and analysis.  A 4 year old who teaches himself to add decimals with carrying is impressive - but no one is going to think about looking for that if that same kid can't count to 20 outloud!  DD, on the other hand, would likely have tested as gifted at any age.  Her rule follower rules would make her a very good subject for test taking as well as her amazing memory.


post #17 of 20

About sports, ODS wanted to do soccer so we let him.  There's a problem with soccer - it's called the uniform.  He did soccer starting at 4.  It wasn't until 8 that he could stop pulling enough on his uniform shirt to actually pay attention enough to the game.  And he refused to wear a shirt under his soccer shirt because he didn't like the feel of it.  I still see him pulling on it a bit, but he can handle it now.  ODS is a sensory seeker when it comes to the more going on the better, so being in a group of several children were not an issue.  But that darn uniform was a major issue.  Plus, he simply didn't have the maturity at 4 or 5, he spent a lot of time poking kids.  At 6, I even had to pull him out of games due to being too physical, since he's high touch needs as long as he's doing the touching.

post #18 of 20
Assume he is gifted and focus on getting the accomodations and services he needs.
post #19 of 20
The school system doesn't have categories for our kids. We need to define what he needs to thrive with less struggle and stress.
post #20 of 20

Hi, yes, we issues such as you are having.


For us, being patient and allowing him to approach various activities when and if he feels ready to has helped tremendously for reducing his stress levels.   We feel sad because now he's at an age where team sports are common and he struggles..and worse than that is that he knows he is struggling. He is trying to cope.  He's about to give up on the playground because he is so accident prone and tired of getting hurt. He has made a tremendous amount of progress in many physical areas; but I know there is a long road still ahead. 


Many things resolve themselves over time such as tag issues. The vestibular issues have been interesting. He can't manage the swings yet. I think now it's due to lack of coordination. He can't figure out how to move his legs even if I show him in many different ways.  But whereas he never would get on any kind of riding thing, he will now!! And he LOVES rides now. I'm so proud of him for being brave.  


But, some don't resolve or perhaps the child just starts avoiding them. It's hard to tell when and what. 

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