Shelley O’Donnell, Jean Deitz, Deborah Kartin, Theresa Nalty, Geraldine Dawson; Sensory Processing, Problem Behavior, Adaptive Behavior, and Cognition in Preschool Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Am J Occup Ther 2012;66(5):586–594. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2012.004168
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OBJECTIVE. This retrospective study explored sensory processing characteristics in preschool-age children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD); the relationships between sensory processing and problem behavior, adaptive behavior, and cognitive function; and the differences in sensory processing between two subgroups (autism and pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified).
METHOD. Study measures included the Short Sensory Profile (SSP), Aberrant Behavior Checklist–Community, Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, and Mullen Scales of Early Learning.
RESULTS. Most of the children with ASD had sensory processing challenges, and a significant relationship was found between SSP total scores and problem behavior scores; however, no significant relationships were found between SSP total scores and adaptive behavior and cognitive functioning. Although all the children had low Vineland scores, approximately one-quarter of the children had typical SSP scores. No significant differences in SSP scores were found between the subgroups.
CONCLUSION. The findings highlight the importance of comprehensive evaluations for children with ASD.
Because a majority of the children in the study presented with sensory processing differences and a significant relationship was found between levels of sensory processing and problem behaviors, it is important that a comprehensive evaluation include a focus on identifying a child’s sensory processing characteristics and a consideration of how these characteristics might influence a child’s behavior.
The findings related to the heterogeneity of the children with ASD in this study and the existence of a subgroup of children with ASD who have typical sensory processing highlight the importance of comprehensive evaluations focused on identifying a child’s strengths and challenges to inform intervention.
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