SPD and Gifted
Studies of SPD and giftedness have historically been conducted with weak methodology producing a tangle of contradictory findings about whether or not sensory impairments are more prevalent in gifted children than in typical children. However, in 2007, new research began to appear indicating that SPD symptoms occur more frequently in populations of children identified as gifted than within populations that are not, and this is another area that merits further investigation by researchers.

Paula Jarrard, MS, OTR, a doctoral candidate at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, conducted a review of research into this question and came up with these results:

  • A pilot study by the SPD Foundation found that the 35% of the children in one large sample (n=500) from a gifted and talented center exhibited symptoms of SPD. This is significantly more than the 5% that pilot studies have found in the general population.
  • Another study showed that almost 17% of gifted children tested at a different center had a co-existing disorder, including SPD.
  • Having SPD may negatively affect cognitive, emotional, social, and motor development in gifted children.
  • When unrecognized, having exceptional abilities and learning disabilities (including but not limited to SPD) can have lasting and debilitating effects including social and emotional consequences that persist into adulthood.
  • Sensory Modulation Disorder (sensory over-responsivity, under-responsivity, and seeking) is the most common subtype of SPD in the gifted, but many gifted children also have dyspraxia, a form of Sensory-Based Motor Disorder
  • The higher the level of giftedness in a child, the more likely that introversion is linked with increased responsivity to pain, sound, touch, and smell.

"The 'double-edged sword' of giftedness often bestows, among other features, a global heightened awareness to sensory stimulation, an endowment of amplified mental processing speed and attention capacity, and unusual challenges with frustration, pain, noise, and emotional hypersensitivity," Jarrard learned from her review. "As many as one-third of gifted children may exhibit sensory processing disorder features, significantly impacting quality of life."

Jarrard's complete review of the literature on SPD and giftedness can be found in Our Library under Gifted and SPD.

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