An Intervention for Sensory Difficulties in Children with Autism

Currently, youngsters who find particular sensations distressing are given behavioural training, but it can take between 25 and 40 hours a week for two years before an improvement is seen.

With SI, the researchers instead identified children's particular difficulties - for example, being afraid of water hitting their skin in the shower - and then designed playful activities to help make sense of them.

Children in the SI group scored significantly higher in goal attainment than those in the behavioural group, as well as needing less help from their parents with activities and socialisation.

Problem behaviour associated with poor sensory processing was also improved.

Lead author Dr Roseann Schaaf said in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders: "By changing how sensations are processed and integrated by the brain we help children with autism make better sense of the information they receive."

However, as this study's sample size was small, more research will be needed to explore additional outcome measures.

This study is a positive step towards improving our understanding of the impact of sensory issues in autism spectrum presentations. The significance of sensory processing differences has been highlighted in the revised DSM-V criteria for autism spectrum, and research across the last decade has started to explore in more detail exactly what these differences are. The reported study indicates how better understanding and support of sensory differences in autism spectrum could lead to development of positive therapies and interventions, a move that I think will be of considerable significance in future research and intervention in autism
— Dr Fiona Scott
 Autism Milton Keynes