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Issue Date: July 2015
Published Online: July 01, 2015
Updated: April 30, 2020
Measure of Participation and the Sensory Environment for Young Children With Autism
Author Affiliations
  • Boston University
  • Temple University
Article Information
Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Assessment/Measurement
Research Platform   |   July 01, 2015
Measure of Participation and the Sensory Environment for Young Children With Autism
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911500181. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-RP301A
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911500181. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-RP301A
Abstract

Date Presented 4/18/2015

In this presentation, we provide an overview of a qualitative study completed to establish content validity for the development of a parent-reported outcome measure that assesses the environmental impact on participation in daily activity for young children with autism spectrum disorders.

SIGNIFICANCE: The purpose of this project is to establish content validity for the development of a parent-reported outcome measure that assesses the environmental impact on participation in daily activity for young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Sensory processing disorders (SPDs) are a diagnostic symptom of ASD, and research identifies that SPD is a factor influencing participation and engagement in daily activity. There are few measures assessing the environmental impact on participation in daily activity for young children with ASD, and there are none known that specifically measure the sensory characteristics of the environment. A qualitative descriptive study was designed and completed to support content validity for the development of an outcome measure.
METHOD: We completed 34 interviews with parents of young children with ASD between the ages of 2 and 6 yr to acquire information about the sensory aspects of the environment that support or limit participation in daily activity in home and community environments. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, and cross-checked prior to analysis by a team of researchers. The analysis and interpretation process was triangulated.
RESULTS: Results support the approach of measuring the sensory environmental impact by the amount of effort it takes to participate in those daily activities that are perceived as essential/meaningful. Parents distinguished between essential and/or meaningful activities and nonessential and/or nonmeaningful activities. Those activities that were deemed nonessential and/or lacked meaning were avoided, as they were too “effortful.” Those activities that were essential and/or meaningful were pursued, but often times they required additional strategies and supports implemented to enable participation for the child. The concept of enablement emerged frequently throughout the interviews. There were consistent strategies that parents identified in enabling their child’s participation. When strategies and supports were needed, parents reported that the activity required a great deal more effort for participation on both the family and child’s part. Implementation of strategies would lead to either successful participation or participation with effort as reported by the parents.
CONCLUSION: Parents reported that the environmental match was important in being able to participate. Parents identified that the sensory features of the environment and their children’s responses affected participation in common activities in both home and community settings. The activities were consistent across parental reports, which serve as the areas of participation in the development of the questions. The results from the study provide initial content validity for the development of an outcome measure that assesses participation—a core component of our occupational therapy practice framework and the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). On the basis of the results of the study, content needs to focus on the concept of effort to support participation and perceived importance/meaning of the activity, as affected by the sensory characteristics of the environment and activity.