A variety of evidence, e.g. parent reports, scientific data and personal accounts, have shown that there appears to be problems processing sensory stimuli in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). We constructed a questionnaire to investigate this in children with ASD and those with developmental disorders (DD). A qualitative, open approach was emphasised, in order to encourage parents to discuss the extent to which they felt sensory sensitivities played a role in their children’s lives.
- Does the AS group exhibit more sensory symptoms than the DD group?
- Clarify what parents perceived to be the most difficult situations and/or places when with their child.
- Highlight the behaviours most commonly exhibited by the ASD group.
- Determine whether there is any evidence of fluctuations in sensitivity within the same modality.
A sensory questionnaire, which was distributed to parents of children with Autism Spectrum (AS) and other developmental disorders (DD), was developed for use in this study. The questionnaire consisted of both closed and open questions.
The ASD groups exhibited significantly more sensory-sensitive behaviour in16 of the 43 closed questions (when a level of 0.05 was applied). 7 were significant when a more stringent p<0.01 was used. 76% of the ASD sample had had their hearing medically tested at a young age. Content Analysis was utilised for the replies to the open questions. Busy, sensory-laden places often proved a problem with the ASD sample. Objects were often used for sensory-stimulation (e.g. water/sand).
- The ASD group exhibited more sensory sensitivities than the DD group.
- The most difficult places appeared to be supermarkets, schools and leisure centres
- Sensory self-stimulation was common, as was aversive behaviour to stimuli.
- There was evidence of both hyper- and hypo-sensitivities within the same modality in certain participants.