International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): Relationship Between Sensory Processing and Severity in Children with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders

Relationship Between Sensory Processing and Severity in Children with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders

Thursday, May 15, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
9:30 AM
C. Hilton , Psychiatry, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
P. D. LaVesser , Occupational Therapy, Washington University, St Louis, MO
Background: Dunn (2001) conceptualized atypical sensory processing as four discrete patterns of atypical responses in which individual respond either passively or actively in relation to their sensory thresholds: low registration, sensation seeking, sensory sensitivity, and sensation avoiding.  Correlations between severity of social responsiveness and atypical sensory processing were previously demonstrated in a group of children with high functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASD, Hilton, Graver & LaVesser, 2007). 

Objectives: In this work, we extended our findings to compare with a control group.


A bivariate correlational design was used to compare the scores between a social severity assessment and a sensory processing assessment of children with HFASD (N = 36), and a control group (N = 26), ages 6 to 10.  Participants were full-term, had an overall IQ of at least 70, and had no history of cerebral palsy, or any other diagnosed major neurological condition. 

The Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS, Constantino & Gruber, 2005) was used to assess social severity.  The Sensory Profile (SP, Dunn, 1999) was used to assess sensory processing. 

Results: Significant differences were seen between the incidence of atypical sensory responses in the HFASD group and the control group in each of the four sensory quadrants: (p < .001).  A high frequency of atypical sensory responses in multiple quadrants was seen in the HFASD group (66.7%), but not in the control group (3.8%).  The number of quadrants with definitely atypical responses was strongly correlated with social severity (.86).  Strong correlations were found between the SRS severity scores and each of the four sensory processing quadrant levels (.70 - .84). 

Conclusions: The presence of multiple atypical quadrant responses in this group of HFASD children indicates that atypical sensory processing follows a more diverse pattern in children with HFASD and the diversity is related to social severity. 

See more of: Sensory Systems Posters
See more of: Poster Presentations