Open Access
Brief Report  |   March 2014
Research Opportunities in the Area of Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration
Article Information
Evidence-Based Practice / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Sensory Integration and Processing / Research Opportunities
Brief Report   |   March 2014
Research Opportunities in the Area of Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March/April 2014, Vol. 68, 242-244. doi:10.5014/ajot.2014.682003
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March/April 2014, Vol. 68, 242-244. doi:10.5014/ajot.2014.682003
Abstract

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Evidence-Based Practice Project has developed a table summarizing the research opportunities on children and adolescents with challenges in sensory processing and sensory integration. The table provides an overview of the state of current available evidence on interventions within the scope of occupational therapy practice and is based on the systematic reviews from the AOTA Evidence-Based Practice Guidelines Series. Researchers, students, and clinicians can use this information in developing innovative research to answer important questions within the occupational therapy field.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Research opportunities in the area of children and adolescents with challenges in sensory processing and sensory integration. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, 242–244. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.682003

Planning a research project requires consideration of many factors. Level of interest and knowledge in a specific area, access to appropriate populations of participants, support of mentors and other researchers, and funding availability all help determine the focus of a future project. An additional component to be considered is whether adequate, up-to-date research has already been completed on a topic; if sufficient evidence is available in a given core area, this area might not be the best choice for another research project.
The best research topic may be one in which either little research has been done or the research to date is insufficient, inconclusive, or mixed. In addition, when research conducted to date provides a low level of evidence and is of limited quality, additional high-quality research in the area is needed.
The “Research Opportunities Table on Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration” provides an overview of the state of current available evidence on interventions within the scope of occupational therapy practice. The table is based on the systematic reviews from the AOTA Evidence-Based Practice Guidelines Series. The table lists specific interventions and indicates either that the evidence is sufficient to support the intervention or that moderate, mixed, or few studies support the intervention and therefore it is a priority research area. Please refer to Occupational Therapy Practice Guidelines for Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration (Watling, Koenig, Davies, & Schaaf, 2011) and the American Journal of Occupational Therapy Special Issue on Sensory Integration (Schaaf & Davies, 2010) for more information on the topic area and the systematic review process.
This table also is posted online for researchers to use to inform the occupational therapy community about their work. The table is linked to Google Drive and offers a place for researchers to include information on recently completed and ongoing research. It is hoped that this information will make the research planning process easier, minimize duplication of research efforts, and stimulate discussions among researchers with similar interests, which can then facilitate the creation of research networks and multisite studies. Researchers, students, and clinicians can use this information in developing innovative research to answer important questions within the occupational therapy field. To add current or ongoing research to the table, visit www.aota.org/researchopportunitiestables.
Researchers are also encouraged to enter their projects into AOTA’s Researcher Database at http://myaota.aota.org/research/. This database provides AOTA with information such as relevant clinical settings and populations, International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health level (World Health Organization, 2001), funder (if any), and key words to help guide research advocacy and policy initiatives.
Research Opportunities Table on Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration
Research Opportunities Table on Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration×
ThemeSpecific InterventionStrength of Evidence
Areas of Occupation
Functional goalsOccupational therapy using an SI approach for performance on individual functional goals for children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
Combination of SI, sensory diet, and therapeutic riding to address performance on functional, parent-centered goals in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI for participation in active play for children with sensory processing disorderPriority research area
SI to address play skills and engagement in children with autismPriority research area
Exercise to improve play behavior in children with autismPriority research area
Cognitive and task-based approach to address participation in occupations for children with motor deficits characteristic of DCDPriority research area
Movement therapy for on-task passive behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
SI for academic and psychoeducational performance (e.g., math, reading, written language)Priority research area
Performance Skills
Motor and praxis skillsSI for gross motor and motor planning skills in children with learning disabilitiesPriority research area
Cognitive and task-based approach to improve motor skills in children with motor deficits characteristic of DCDPriority research area
Mental imagery to address performance on motor skills in children with attention and learning problemsPriority research area
Motor imagery programs for performance on motor skills in children with problems in motor coordinationPriority research area
Sensorimotor techniques to address motor performance and reduce falls in children with DCDPriority research area
Perceptual–motor training for motor performance in children with learning problemsPriority research area
Sensory–perceptual skillsOccupational therapy using an SI approach to address sensory processing skills in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI approach to improve visual perception in children with DCDPriority research area
Combined sensory diet plus Therapeutic Listening program to address areas of sensory processing for children with sensory processing disorders and visual–motor delaysPriority research area
Combined SI plus perceptual–motor curriculum for visual, auditory, and tactile perception in children with suspected neurological problemsPriority research area
Sensorimotor activities to improve sensory organization in children with DCDPriority research area
Emotional regulation skillsSI to address maladaptive behaviors in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI to address self-esteem in children with learning disabilities and sensory integrative dysfunctionPriority research area
Occupational therapy using an SI approach to decrease externalizing and internalizing behaviors in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
Combination sensory diet plus Therapeutic Listening program to improve behavior in children with sensory processing disorders and visual–motor delaysPriority research area
Communication and social skillsOccupational therapy using an SI approach to address socialization in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI approach to promote engagement and reduce aggression in children with sensory modulation disorderPriority research area
SI approach to improve social interaction and reduce disruptive behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
Massage to improve social communication in children with autismPriority research area
Sound therapy to improve language skills in children with autismPriority research area
Client Factors
Mental functionsSI to improve attention in children with autismPriority research area
Weighted vests to address attention in children with pervasive developmental disorder and sensory processing disorderPriority research area
Sensory function and painOccupational therapy using an SI approach to reduce the amplitude of electrodermal responses in children with problems in sensory modulation indicating a decreased stress response to repetitive and potentially noxious sensory stimuliPriority research area
Touch pressure or deep pressure and massage to address touch aversion and improve responsiveness to sound in children with autismPriority research area
SI to address tactile discrimination in children with suspected neurological problemsPriority research area
Physical exercise to reduce self-stimulatory behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
Movement therapy to decrease negative responses to touch in children with autismPriority research area
Consultation
Occupational therapy provided on a consultation basis for children with SI dysfunction, DCD, and learning problemsResearch sufficient
Table Footer NoteNote. DCD = developmental coordination disorder; SI = sensory integration.
Note. DCD = developmental coordination disorder; SI = sensory integration.×
Research Opportunities Table on Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration
Research Opportunities Table on Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration×
ThemeSpecific InterventionStrength of Evidence
Areas of Occupation
Functional goalsOccupational therapy using an SI approach for performance on individual functional goals for children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
Combination of SI, sensory diet, and therapeutic riding to address performance on functional, parent-centered goals in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI for participation in active play for children with sensory processing disorderPriority research area
SI to address play skills and engagement in children with autismPriority research area
Exercise to improve play behavior in children with autismPriority research area
Cognitive and task-based approach to address participation in occupations for children with motor deficits characteristic of DCDPriority research area
Movement therapy for on-task passive behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
SI for academic and psychoeducational performance (e.g., math, reading, written language)Priority research area
Performance Skills
Motor and praxis skillsSI for gross motor and motor planning skills in children with learning disabilitiesPriority research area
Cognitive and task-based approach to improve motor skills in children with motor deficits characteristic of DCDPriority research area
Mental imagery to address performance on motor skills in children with attention and learning problemsPriority research area
Motor imagery programs for performance on motor skills in children with problems in motor coordinationPriority research area
Sensorimotor techniques to address motor performance and reduce falls in children with DCDPriority research area
Perceptual–motor training for motor performance in children with learning problemsPriority research area
Sensory–perceptual skillsOccupational therapy using an SI approach to address sensory processing skills in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI approach to improve visual perception in children with DCDPriority research area
Combined sensory diet plus Therapeutic Listening program to address areas of sensory processing for children with sensory processing disorders and visual–motor delaysPriority research area
Combined SI plus perceptual–motor curriculum for visual, auditory, and tactile perception in children with suspected neurological problemsPriority research area
Sensorimotor activities to improve sensory organization in children with DCDPriority research area
Emotional regulation skillsSI to address maladaptive behaviors in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI to address self-esteem in children with learning disabilities and sensory integrative dysfunctionPriority research area
Occupational therapy using an SI approach to decrease externalizing and internalizing behaviors in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
Combination sensory diet plus Therapeutic Listening program to improve behavior in children with sensory processing disorders and visual–motor delaysPriority research area
Communication and social skillsOccupational therapy using an SI approach to address socialization in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI approach to promote engagement and reduce aggression in children with sensory modulation disorderPriority research area
SI approach to improve social interaction and reduce disruptive behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
Massage to improve social communication in children with autismPriority research area
Sound therapy to improve language skills in children with autismPriority research area
Client Factors
Mental functionsSI to improve attention in children with autismPriority research area
Weighted vests to address attention in children with pervasive developmental disorder and sensory processing disorderPriority research area
Sensory function and painOccupational therapy using an SI approach to reduce the amplitude of electrodermal responses in children with problems in sensory modulation indicating a decreased stress response to repetitive and potentially noxious sensory stimuliPriority research area
Touch pressure or deep pressure and massage to address touch aversion and improve responsiveness to sound in children with autismPriority research area
SI to address tactile discrimination in children with suspected neurological problemsPriority research area
Physical exercise to reduce self-stimulatory behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
Movement therapy to decrease negative responses to touch in children with autismPriority research area
Consultation
Occupational therapy provided on a consultation basis for children with SI dysfunction, DCD, and learning problemsResearch sufficient
Table Footer NoteNote. DCD = developmental coordination disorder; SI = sensory integration.
Note. DCD = developmental coordination disorder; SI = sensory integration.×
×
Acknowledgments
AOTA acknowledges the work of Matthew Bernardo (emerging leader mentee) and Melissa Stutzbach (fieldwork student), who participated in the development of the Research Opportunities tables while at AOTA in Bethesda, MD. This work is based on the American Journal of Occupational Therapy Special Issue on Sensory Integration (Schaaf & Davies, 2010) and the Occupational Therapy Practice Guidelines for Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration (Watling et al., 2011), all from the AOTA Evidence-Based Practice Project.
References
Schaaf, R. C., & Davies, P. L. (Eds.). (2010). Sensory integration [Special issue]. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64(3).
Schaaf, R. C., & Davies, P. L. (Eds.). (2010). Sensory integration [Special issue]. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64(3).×
Watling, R., Koenig, K. P., Davies, P. L., & Schaaf, R. C. (2011). Occupational therapy practice guidelines for children and adolescents with challenges in sensory processing and sensory integration. Bethesda, MD: AOTA Press.
Watling, R., Koenig, K. P., Davies, P. L., & Schaaf, R. C. (2011). Occupational therapy practice guidelines for children and adolescents with challenges in sensory processing and sensory integration. Bethesda, MD: AOTA Press.×
World Health Organization. (2001). International classification of functioning, disability and health. Geneva: Author.
World Health Organization. (2001). International classification of functioning, disability and health. Geneva: Author.×
Research Opportunities Table on Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration
Research Opportunities Table on Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration×
ThemeSpecific InterventionStrength of Evidence
Areas of Occupation
Functional goalsOccupational therapy using an SI approach for performance on individual functional goals for children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
Combination of SI, sensory diet, and therapeutic riding to address performance on functional, parent-centered goals in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI for participation in active play for children with sensory processing disorderPriority research area
SI to address play skills and engagement in children with autismPriority research area
Exercise to improve play behavior in children with autismPriority research area
Cognitive and task-based approach to address participation in occupations for children with motor deficits characteristic of DCDPriority research area
Movement therapy for on-task passive behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
SI for academic and psychoeducational performance (e.g., math, reading, written language)Priority research area
Performance Skills
Motor and praxis skillsSI for gross motor and motor planning skills in children with learning disabilitiesPriority research area
Cognitive and task-based approach to improve motor skills in children with motor deficits characteristic of DCDPriority research area
Mental imagery to address performance on motor skills in children with attention and learning problemsPriority research area
Motor imagery programs for performance on motor skills in children with problems in motor coordinationPriority research area
Sensorimotor techniques to address motor performance and reduce falls in children with DCDPriority research area
Perceptual–motor training for motor performance in children with learning problemsPriority research area
Sensory–perceptual skillsOccupational therapy using an SI approach to address sensory processing skills in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI approach to improve visual perception in children with DCDPriority research area
Combined sensory diet plus Therapeutic Listening program to address areas of sensory processing for children with sensory processing disorders and visual–motor delaysPriority research area
Combined SI plus perceptual–motor curriculum for visual, auditory, and tactile perception in children with suspected neurological problemsPriority research area
Sensorimotor activities to improve sensory organization in children with DCDPriority research area
Emotional regulation skillsSI to address maladaptive behaviors in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI to address self-esteem in children with learning disabilities and sensory integrative dysfunctionPriority research area
Occupational therapy using an SI approach to decrease externalizing and internalizing behaviors in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
Combination sensory diet plus Therapeutic Listening program to improve behavior in children with sensory processing disorders and visual–motor delaysPriority research area
Communication and social skillsOccupational therapy using an SI approach to address socialization in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI approach to promote engagement and reduce aggression in children with sensory modulation disorderPriority research area
SI approach to improve social interaction and reduce disruptive behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
Massage to improve social communication in children with autismPriority research area
Sound therapy to improve language skills in children with autismPriority research area
Client Factors
Mental functionsSI to improve attention in children with autismPriority research area
Weighted vests to address attention in children with pervasive developmental disorder and sensory processing disorderPriority research area
Sensory function and painOccupational therapy using an SI approach to reduce the amplitude of electrodermal responses in children with problems in sensory modulation indicating a decreased stress response to repetitive and potentially noxious sensory stimuliPriority research area
Touch pressure or deep pressure and massage to address touch aversion and improve responsiveness to sound in children with autismPriority research area
SI to address tactile discrimination in children with suspected neurological problemsPriority research area
Physical exercise to reduce self-stimulatory behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
Movement therapy to decrease negative responses to touch in children with autismPriority research area
Consultation
Occupational therapy provided on a consultation basis for children with SI dysfunction, DCD, and learning problemsResearch sufficient
Table Footer NoteNote. DCD = developmental coordination disorder; SI = sensory integration.
Note. DCD = developmental coordination disorder; SI = sensory integration.×
Research Opportunities Table on Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration
Research Opportunities Table on Children and Adolescents With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration×
ThemeSpecific InterventionStrength of Evidence
Areas of Occupation
Functional goalsOccupational therapy using an SI approach for performance on individual functional goals for children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
Combination of SI, sensory diet, and therapeutic riding to address performance on functional, parent-centered goals in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI for participation in active play for children with sensory processing disorderPriority research area
SI to address play skills and engagement in children with autismPriority research area
Exercise to improve play behavior in children with autismPriority research area
Cognitive and task-based approach to address participation in occupations for children with motor deficits characteristic of DCDPriority research area
Movement therapy for on-task passive behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
SI for academic and psychoeducational performance (e.g., math, reading, written language)Priority research area
Performance Skills
Motor and praxis skillsSI for gross motor and motor planning skills in children with learning disabilitiesPriority research area
Cognitive and task-based approach to improve motor skills in children with motor deficits characteristic of DCDPriority research area
Mental imagery to address performance on motor skills in children with attention and learning problemsPriority research area
Motor imagery programs for performance on motor skills in children with problems in motor coordinationPriority research area
Sensorimotor techniques to address motor performance and reduce falls in children with DCDPriority research area
Perceptual–motor training for motor performance in children with learning problemsPriority research area
Sensory–perceptual skillsOccupational therapy using an SI approach to address sensory processing skills in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI approach to improve visual perception in children with DCDPriority research area
Combined sensory diet plus Therapeutic Listening program to address areas of sensory processing for children with sensory processing disorders and visual–motor delaysPriority research area
Combined SI plus perceptual–motor curriculum for visual, auditory, and tactile perception in children with suspected neurological problemsPriority research area
Sensorimotor activities to improve sensory organization in children with DCDPriority research area
Emotional regulation skillsSI to address maladaptive behaviors in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI to address self-esteem in children with learning disabilities and sensory integrative dysfunctionPriority research area
Occupational therapy using an SI approach to decrease externalizing and internalizing behaviors in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
Combination sensory diet plus Therapeutic Listening program to improve behavior in children with sensory processing disorders and visual–motor delaysPriority research area
Communication and social skillsOccupational therapy using an SI approach to address socialization in children with problems in sensory processingPriority research area
SI approach to promote engagement and reduce aggression in children with sensory modulation disorderPriority research area
SI approach to improve social interaction and reduce disruptive behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
Massage to improve social communication in children with autismPriority research area
Sound therapy to improve language skills in children with autismPriority research area
Client Factors
Mental functionsSI to improve attention in children with autismPriority research area
Weighted vests to address attention in children with pervasive developmental disorder and sensory processing disorderPriority research area
Sensory function and painOccupational therapy using an SI approach to reduce the amplitude of electrodermal responses in children with problems in sensory modulation indicating a decreased stress response to repetitive and potentially noxious sensory stimuliPriority research area
Touch pressure or deep pressure and massage to address touch aversion and improve responsiveness to sound in children with autismPriority research area
SI to address tactile discrimination in children with suspected neurological problemsPriority research area
Physical exercise to reduce self-stimulatory behaviors in children with autismPriority research area
Movement therapy to decrease negative responses to touch in children with autismPriority research area
Consultation
Occupational therapy provided on a consultation basis for children with SI dysfunction, DCD, and learning problemsResearch sufficient
Table Footer NoteNote. DCD = developmental coordination disorder; SI = sensory integration.
Note. DCD = developmental coordination disorder; SI = sensory integration.×
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