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Research Article  |   March 2009
Parent Reports of Sensory Experiences of Preschool Children With and Without Autism: A Qualitative Study
Author Affiliations
  • Virginia A. Dickie, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Associate Professor and Director, Division of Occupational Science, Department of Allied Health Sciences, School of Medicine, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bondurant Hall, Suite 2050, CB7122, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7122; vdickie@med.unc.edu
  • Grace T. Baranek, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Associate Professor, Division of Occupational Science, Department of Allied Health Sciences, School of Medicine, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Beth Schultz, MS, OTR/L, is Training Coordinator, Sensory Experiences Project, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Linda R. Watson, EdD, is Associate Professor, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Department of Allied Health Sciences, School of Medicine, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Cara S. McComish, PhD, CCC–SLP, is PhD Candidate, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Department of Allied Health Sciences, School of Medicine, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Article Information
Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Children and Youth
Research Article   |   March 2009
Parent Reports of Sensory Experiences of Preschool Children With and Without Autism: A Qualitative Study
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March/April 2009, Vol. 63, 172-181. doi:10.5014/ajot.63.2.172
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March/April 2009, Vol. 63, 172-181. doi:10.5014/ajot.63.2.172
Abstract

This study describes sensory experiences of children with and without autism. Parents of 66 preschoolers (29 typically developing; 37 with autism) described situations in which their child had “good” and “bad” sensory experiences and their perception of how these situations felt to the child. The most common unpleasant experiences for both groups related to sound; the most common pleasant experiences involved touch and movement. Children with autism were reported to have more extreme or unusual experiences and negative food-related experiences than typically developing peers. Parental explanations for children's responses focused on the qualities of the child, stimulus, or context. Parents of children with autism were more likely to recognize elements in their children's experiences as being sensory and to attribute those responses to aspects of autism. Parents’ positive response to the interview itself was an unexpected result with clinical relevance.