Why is getting an accurate and thorough sensory processing disorder (SPD) diagnosis so hard? There are a few major factors, but here’s a big one:
There are virtually no quality clinical tests to assess for it.
Right now, the only clinical tests for SPD are old and outdated and are only for children 8 years old and younger.
Clinicians who have specialized training can use their judgment and reasoning to document signs and symptoms of SPD that are apparent when using other, primarily motor-based assessments or by testing for “soft” signs of neurological impairments. This isn’t always a very accurate method and does not always convince physicians and insurance companies of the validity of an SPD diagnosis.
The only other way of assessing for SPD are questionnaires that have been standardized* (like the Sensory Profile and Sensory Processing Measure), but these are limited by how aware of symptoms the person filling out the questionnaire is (usually a parent, teacher, and/or the person being tested). These questionnaires are also limited in the scope of symptoms assessed and may not provide a complete or accurate picture of symptoms. (*Standardized means the assessment tool has been researched on a sample of people of varying abilities and statistically analyzed to determine what is “typical” and “atypical”.)
Now, here’s the good news: There is a new test in development for clinical assessment of SPD!
The test was developed by clinicians and researchers at the STAR Institute for SPD and the University of New Hampshire and is being published by Western Psychological Services.
The test is called The Sensory Processing Three Dimensions Scale (SP3D) and is the first assessment for SPD with a version for teens and adults. It consists of seven subtests and assesses symptoms of SPD across all three subtypes (sensory modulation disorder, sensory discrimination disorder, and sensory-based motor disorder).