Impairments in Sensory Modulation in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder

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The Short Sensory Profile was used to measure a caregiver report of sensory reactivity in a group of children with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Fifty-six of 78 (72%) families invited to participate returned the questionnaires and the data were complete for 44 children. These 44 children represented a stratified sample out of a total of 443 children, identified through nine different data sets maintained for children affected by ASD from a total geographical region in South East Scotland.

Clinical information was collected retrospectively from contemporaneous paediatric community child health medical notes and also cross-sectionally from caregivers. Sensory reactivity was outside normal limits in over 70% of the children, with the highest percentage of sensitivities occurring in the auditory filtering and the underresponsiveness and seeking sensation domains. Logistic regression analysis showed no significant relationship between sensory reactivity and the child's age at presentation with autism or parental report of regression. The severity of autism was measured by the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale and related to the Short Sensory Profile (r = 0.39, p = 0.001).

These findings suggest that all children affected by ASD, regardless of clinical features or age, may potentially be affected by sensory reactivities and may benefit from appropriate occupational therapy assessment and management. ASDs are relatively common among neurodevelopmental conditions and confer lifelong disabilities. As the majority of affected children will have sensory modulation difficulties, this has significant implications for paediatric occupational therapy services.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at

    Submissions can be made at

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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