Research Article
Issue Date: March 27, 2019
Published Online: March 27, 2019
Updated: March 28, 2019
Sensory Features and Family Functioning in Families of Children With Autism and Developmental Disabilities: Longitudinal Associations
Author Affiliations
  • Anne V. Kirby, PhD, OTR/L, is Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational and Recreational Therapies, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; avkirby@gmail.com
  • Kathryn L. Williams, MS, OTR/L, is Doctoral Candidate, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Linda R. Watson, EdD, CCC-SLP, is Professor, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • John Sideris, PhD, is Professor of Research, Mrs. T. H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. At the time of this study, he was Scientist, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • John Bulluck, BA, was Research Systems Analyst, Department of Allied Health Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, at the time of this study.
  • Grace T. Baranek, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Associate Dean, Chair, and Mrs. T. H. Chan Professor of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Mrs. T. H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. At the time of this study, she was Professor and Associate Chair for Research, Department of Allied Health Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Article Information
Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder / Health and Wellness / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Sensory Integration and Processing / Research Articles
Research Article   |   March 27, 2019
Sensory Features and Family Functioning in Families of Children With Autism and Developmental Disabilities: Longitudinal Associations
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 03 2019, Vol. 73, 7302205040. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2018.027391
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 03 2019, Vol. 73, 7302205040. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2018.027391
Abstract

Importance: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities (DD) commonly display unusual responses to sensory input. Previous work has suggested concurrent associations linking sensory features with aspects of family functioning, including activity participation and caregiver strain. What is unknown, however, is the extent to which sensory features affect family functioning over time, as well as the influence of received services on these relationships.

Objective: To assess hypothesized longitudinal associations between sensory features and family functioning and examine interactions by group and service usage (i.e., educational and therapy services).

Design: Multigroup longitudinal observational study.

Setting: Community.

Participants: A volunteer sample of 81 children (50 with ASD, 31 with DD; 76% male), ages 2–12 yr, and their caregivers participated in assessments at two points, 3.3 yr apart on average.

Outcomes and Measures: Key measures included the Sensory Experiences Questionnaire, Sensory Profile, Sensory Processing Assessment for Young Children, Tactile Defensiveness and Discrimination Test–Revised, Caregiver Strain Questionnaire, and Home and Community Activities Scale. We also measured the amount of time children received educational and therapy services.

Results: Regression analyses confirmed long-term associations linking sensory features with aspects of activity participation and caregiver strain in this population; group and service usage interactions were also identified.

Conclusions and Relevance: Sensory features can affect the everyday experiences of both children and caregivers. It is important for practitioners to understand the potentially enduring effects of children’s sensory features on family functioning so as to begin to identify supportive interventions with more optimal long-term effects.