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ADHD and Sensory Issues: Why Do They Often Occur Together?

a teen pulls their hoodie down over their face as they cope with adhd and sensory issues

ADHD is characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms arise because of neurological and structural differences in the brain, known as neurodiversity. Teens with ADHD perceive, interact with, and decipher information differently than teens who are more neurotypical. Differences in the brain can also cause atypical responses to noise, smell, touch, sight, and taste. In fact, these sensory issues might be one of the first noticeable signs that an adolescent may be neurodivergent. ADHD and sensory issues often go hand in hand, and understanding how to help teens cope with sensory overload is crucial for their well-being.1

Family First offers ADHD treatment for adolescents at our treatment center in South Florida. We recognize that teens with ADHD will be challenged by a world designed for neurotypical individuals. That’s why our comprehensive treatment approach includes addressing sensory issues and providing coping strategies for teens that allow them to thrive in their environment. Call 888.904.5947 for more.

Navigating a Neurotypical World

Neurodiversity is a term used to describe the natural variations in neurological structure and function among individuals. Just as each person has unique physical characteristics, such as height or eye color, everyone also has individual brain differences. Recognizing, celebrating, and being more accepting of neurodivergent individuals, however, is a more recent development.

Much of the world was designed to serve neurotypical individuals, which can create challenges for those who are neurodivergent. One of the most common ways this is seen is through sensory issues. Sensory processing refers to how people receive and interpret information from their environment through their senses.

The Link Between ADHD and Sensory Issues

Why do these conditions often occur together? The answer may lie in the brain’s wiring. Both ADHD and sensory processing issues stem from differences in how the brain processes information. For teens with ADHD, sensory stimuli can be overwhelming, exacerbating the symptoms of ADHD and vice versa, creating a cycle that can affect behavior, learning, and emotional regulation. However, there is still no clear answer as to why individuals with ADHD are more sensitive to outside stimuli.

Sensory Overload

A common experience among neurodivergent people is sensory overload. This occurs when the brain receives too much information and struggles to process it all.

Sensory overload can happen in several different situations, including:

  • Crowded or loud places, such as a busy cafeteria or concert
  • Bright lights or flashing screens
  • Strong smells, like perfumes or cleaning products
  • Certain textures, such as scratchy clothing tags or coarse fabrics

This can manifest in various ways, such as feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or irritable. It can also lead to physical symptoms like headaches or fatigue.

Soothing Sensations

On the other hand, some sensations can be soothing for neurodivergent individuals. This is known as sensory seeking or “stimming,” and it can help regulate emotions and behavior.2 For example, some teens with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may fidget or tap their feet to provide a sense of stimulation and focus.

Some soothing sensations for neurodivergent individuals include:

  • Soft textures, like comfortable clothing
  • Simple, repetitive movements like rocking or swaying
  • White noise or gentle music
  • Weighted blankets or compression clothing

Stimming can be a helpful way for neurodivergent teens to remain engaged, helping them manage their sensory needs and stay calm and focused. However, when stimming behaviors become distracting or disruptive, it’s essential to provide alternative coping strategies.

Providing Support for Teens with ADHD

At Family First, we understand that managing ADHD and sensory issues can be overwhelming for teens and their families. Our treatment program addresses these challenges by providing specialized therapies and resources to help your teen thrive.

Our team of professionals works with each individual to identify their unique sensory needs and develop coping strategies that work best for them. We also offer activities like art therapy, yoga, and outdoor recreational therapy to help teens regulate their senses in a safe and nurturing environment.

Call Family First Adolescent Services Today

We believe in embracing neurodiversity and providing a supportive and inclusive environment for all teens. Our treatment programs help promote long-term success in navigating a neurotypical world. We provide support for adolescents 13–18 at our Palm Beach Gardens, FL, center, including a residential program for boys and a co-ed partial hospitalization program.

If you have concerns about your teen’s behavior or sensory issues, contact us online today or at 888.904.5947 to find help.


  1. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience (accessed via PubMed) – Sensory Over-Responsivity as an Added Dimension in ADHD
  1. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) – Stimming and Fidgeting Helps Some People with ADHD to Pay Attention