Stephanie C. Crozier, Jennifer Z. Goodson, Margot L. Mackay, Anne R. Synnes, Ruth E. Grunau, Steven P. Miller, Jill G. Zwicker; Sensory Processing Patterns in Children Born Very Preterm. Am J Occup Ther 2015;70(1):7001220050. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.018747
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
OBJECTIVE. We describe the prevalence and type of sensory processing differences in children born very preterm and determine associations with neonatal risk factors.
METHOD. We assessed sensory processing patterns using the Short Sensory Profile in a retrospective cohort of 160 children age 4 yr born very preterm (≤32 wk gestational age). Data analyses included descriptive statistics to describe the prevalence of sensory processing patterns and logistic regression to examine associations with neonatal risk factors.
RESULTS. Almost half of our cohort (46%) exhibited atypical sensory processing patterns. Lower Apgar scores (p = .03) and longer length of stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU; p = .02) independently predicted atypical sensory processing patterns.
CONCLUSION. Children born very preterm are at increased risk for sensory processing differences, which are associated with perinatal risk factors and length of stay in the NICU. Routine evaluation for sensory processing differences of children born preterm is recommended.
Sensory processing differences may be related to prenatal or perinatal factors, neonatal illness, or NICU environmental exposure. The current standard of care in the NICU is to reduce aversive sensory stimuli, but whether this practice has an impact on sensory processing outcomes is unknown. Future research on interventions to prevent atypical sensory processing patterns in this vulnerable population is needed.
Given the high prevalence of sensory processing differences in children born very preterm, referral to occupational therapy for routine evaluation may be appropriate for this population.
Children with sensory processing differences may experience difficulties in the performance of daily occupations and could benefit from occupational therapy intervention (Polatajko & Cantin, 2010). By considering the sensory aspects of behavior, occupational therapy practitioners offer a unique perspective on the delivery of service to children with these difficulties (Ermer & Dunn, 1998).
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