Maria Clince, Laura Connolly, Clodagh Nolan; Comparing and Exploring the Sensory Processing Patterns of Higher Education Students With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Am J Occup Ther 2016;70(2):7002250010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.016816
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
OBJECTIVE. Research regarding sensory processing and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is limited. This study aimed to compare sensory processing patterns of groups of higher education students with ADHD or ASD and to explore the implications of these disorders for their college life.
METHOD.The Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile was administered to 28 students with ADHD and 27 students with ASD. Students and professionals were interviewed.
RESULTS. The majority of students received scores that differed from those of the general population. Students with ADHD received significantly higher scores than students with ASD in relation to sensation seeking; however, there were no other major differences.
CONCLUSION. Few differences exist between the sensory processing patterns of students with ADHD and ASD; however, both groups differ significantly from the general population. Occupational therapists should consider sensory processing patterns when designing supports for these groups.
People clicking pens, that drives me mad! I can’t even listen to music when I study; I know a lot of people can, but I can’t, even not classical music—it does not work, I need complete silence. But yeah, clicking the pen—I’ll kill you, I hate it I hate it!
If they [friends] were doing something, they would be going out to a stupid nightclub, and like I would do it the odd time but apart from all the sensory things in the nightclub, I’d be bored. I’d sooner just go out and do things!
The Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile should be completed with all students with ADHD and ASD so that their individualized sensory preferences can be identified and so that strategies for incorporating these preferences into their routine can be implemented.
Occupational therapy practitioners need to be cognizant of possibilities for environmental adaptation, including of the institutional and social environments. They need to be aware of how reasonable accommodations can be tailored to suit individual clients. These accommodations can be achieved by working closely with university disability services, examination offices, libraries, and housing departments in the provision of environmental adaptation and reasonable accommodations.
Occupational therapy practitioners should consider developing self-management programs for students that address risky behaviors, sensory diets, and management of leisure occupations. Specific staff awareness training in understanding the impact of sensory processing and sensory sensitivities on students’ academic progress and ability to learn should be developed and delivered from an occupational therapy perspective.
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