International Meeting for Autism Research: Sensory Modulation and Affective Disorders in Children with Asperger's Disorder

Sensory Modulation and Affective Disorders in Children with Asperger's Disorder

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
11:00 AM
B. Pfeiffer , Department of Occupational Therapy, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Background: Sensory processing issues have been identified by numerous researchers as prevalent in individuals with Asperger’s Disorder (Baranek & Berkson, 1994; Dawson & Lewy, 1989)). In particular, individuals with Asperger's Disorder frequently demonstrate sensory modulation disorders resulting in hypo or hypersensitive responses to sensory stimuli (Ornitz, 1989). Affective disorders such as depression and anxiety have been theorized to have a relationship with sensory hyposensitivity and hypersensitivity. (Johnson, 1975; Neal, Edelmann, & Glachan, 2002). Similar central nervous system arousal levels are associated with both sensory modulation and affective disorders. It is speculated that depression and sensory hyposensitivity are associated with low levels of arousal while anxiety and sensory defensiveness are associated with high levels of arousal (Johnson, 1975; Lane, 2002). Both depression and anxiety are considered comorbid conditions with Asperger’s Disorder. Along with clarifying the relationships between sensory modulation and affective disorders in children and adolescents with Asperger’s Disorder, understanding the impact of these relationships on adaptive behavior is essential for diagnosis, evaluation and intervention.

Objectives: The purpose of the study was to determine if there were significant relationships between dysfunction in sensory modulation, affective disorders, and adaptive behaviors in children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17.

Methods: Parents of 46 children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17 diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder based on the DSM-IV-TM criteria completed the a) Sensory Profile or the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile b) the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System c) Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale (Adapted); and d) the Children’s Depression Inventory (Adapted). Descriptive statistics and the Pearson product-moment coefficient of correlation calculations were used for data analysis.

Results: There were statistically significant positive correlations between anxiety and sensory defensiveness (r = .270, p = .035) in the total group and depression and sensory hyposensitivity in only the older group (r = .461, p = .024). There was an inverse significant relationship between depression and the total adaptive behaviors score (r = -.256, p = .043) and specific inverse relationships with the adaptive behaviors of functional academics, leisure and social skills. The relationship between anxiety and adaptive behaviors was not significant (r = -.121, p = .212) although there was a significant inverse relationship between sensory defensiveness and adaptive behaviors (r = -.254, p = .044). The relationship between hyposensitivity and adaptive behaviors approached significance (r = -.214, p = .077).

Conclusions: The data supports relationships between anxiety and sensory defensiveness in all age ranges and the relationship between depression and hyposensitivity in older children. A temporal relationship between anxiety and depression may explain the developmental nature of the results. Depression and sensory defensiveness demonstrated significant inverse relationships with overall adaptive behavior functioning. Evaluations and interventions need to address these relationships when treating children with Asperger Disorder.

See more of: Autism Symptoms
See more of: Autism Symptoms