Differential diagnosis of sensory modulation disorder (SMD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Participation, sensation, and attention

Aviva Yochman*, Osnat Alon-Beery, Ahuva Sribman, Shula Parush

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Differential diagnosis between sensory modulation disorder (SMD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often challenging, since these disorders occur at a high rate of co-morbidity and share several clinical characteristics. Preliminary studies providing evidence that these are distinct disorders have focused solely on body functions, using sophisticated laboratory measurements. Moreover, no studies have compared participation profiles of these populations. This study is the first to compare the profiles of these populations regarding both body functions (attention and sensation) and participation, using measures applicable for clinical use. The study included 19 children with ADHD without SMD and 19 with SMD without ADHD (diagnosed by both pediatric neurologists and occupational therapists), aged 6-9, and matched by age and gender. All children underwent a broad battery of evaluations: the Evaluation of Sensory Processing, Fabric Prickliness Test (FPT) and Von Frey Test to evaluate sensory processing, and Test of Everyday Attention to evaluate attention components. The Participation in Childhood Occupations Questionnaire was used to evaluate participation. Results support significant group differences in all sensory components, including pain intensity to suprathreshold stimuli and pain after sensation, as well as in tactile, vestibular, taste, and olfactory processing. No differences were found in attention components and participation. This study has both theoretical and clinical importance, inter alia, providing further evidence of two distinct disorders as well as indications of specific clinical instruments that might enable clinicians to implement differential diagnoses. In addition, results accord with other previous statements, which indicate that the clinical diagnosis of children with disabilities may not be a major factor in determining their participation profile.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberDEC
StatePublished - 16 Dec 2013


  • Attention
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Participation
  • Sensory modulation
  • Sensory processing


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