Shelly J. Lane, Stacey Reynolds, Levent Dumenci; Sensory Overresponsivity and Anxiety in Typically Developing Children and Children With Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Cause or Coexistence?. Am J Occup Ther 2012;66(5):595–603. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2012.004523
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
OBJECTIVE. To explore the relationship between sensory overresponsivity (SOR) and anxiety in children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and typical development.
METHOD. Path analysis was used to examine the primary SOR model (Green & Ben-Sasson, 2010) using both physiological and behavioral data.
RESULTS. The magnitude of physiological responses to sensory challenge was a mediator variable between predictors (baseline arousal and attention) and outcomes (anxiety and physiological recovery). Behavioral SOR was correlated with anxiety but not with physiological variables.
CONCLUSION. The intensity or magnitude of sensory responsivity mediates the relationship between baseline arousal and attention and outcome anxiety and physiologic recovery from sensory challenge. Behavioral tools used to measure SOR do not reflect physiological responsiveness; this mismatch warrants further investigation. SOR can prevent children from participating in the occupations of childhood; the greater the understanding of SOR, the more successful occupational therapy practitioners will be in developing effective interventions.
Arousal and attentional states are important to consider when working with children with SOR.
Children showing SOR may also show anxiety, and anxiety may be made worse when bothersome sensations are experienced. Behaviorally this child may “recover” from an environmental “sensory challenge” more slowly than other children.
Clinically, the complex relationship among arousal, anxiety, and SOR documented in this study may help explain and validate the variability in sensory responsivity often reported by parents and teachers.
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