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Sensory Processing Disorders Patterns in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
M. N. Simard1,2, M. Couture3, E. Gisel4, E. Fombonne5 and C. Kirby6, (1)CHUQ Research Center, Quebec, QC, Canada, (2)Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada, (3)Axe mère-enfant, Centre de recherche Etienne LeBel, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada, (4)McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, (5)Montreal Children's Hospital, Montreal, QC, Canada, (6)Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada
Background: Sensory processing disorders have been identified in cohorts of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in many recent studies. According to these studies, between 45% and 95% of children with ASD have sensory processing abnormalities. These difficulties can be defined as dysfunctions occurring during the processing of discrimination, interpretation, modulation and organization of sensory stimulations in the central nervous system. Processing disorders can affect all sensory systems, i.e. the auditory, visual, vestibular, touch and oral systems. Moreover, according to the theoretical model of neurological threshold and behavioral responses proposed by Dunn, children’s responsivity to the perceived stimuli can be classified into the following quadrants: poor registration, sensation seeking, sensitivity to stimuli and sensation avoiding. Despite the high prevalence of sensory processing disorders in children with ASD, the existence of homogeneous or typical portraits of sensory disorders in this population is still pending.   

Objectives: To explore the existence of sensory processing patterns in a cohort of children with ASD.

Methods: One hundred and forty-one children diagnosed with ASD and aged between 4 and 7 years old were recruited and assessed with the Sensory Profile. The Sensory Profile aims to measure the sensory processing abilities and their effect on functional performance in the child’s daily living. It is one of the most recognized and used tool for the assessment of sensory processing. Children’s results can be analyzed and interpreted according to 2 types of classification: the sensory systems and Dunn’s quadrants. Parents of the children with ASD completed the questionnaire and scoring was done by an occupational therapist. Latent class analyses were then conducted with children’s results on both types of classification (sensory systems and Dunn’s quadrants) to determine the existence of sensory processing disorders patterns.  

Results: For both types of classification, two patterns have been identified. According to the sensory systems, children presenting the first pattern (35.3%) are at high risk of sensory disorders in all systems except for the visual domain (auditive 0.914 visual 0.546 balance 1.000 tactile 0.937 oral 0.828) while children in the second pattern (64.7%) are at low risk of sensory disorders in all systems (auditive 0.440 visual 0.147 balance 0.320 tactile 0.396 oral 0.399). According to Dunn’s quadrants classification, children with the first pattern (76.1%) are at high risk of having all types of responses to perceived stimuli (sensation seeking 0.838 poor registration 0.747 sensation avoiding 0.789 sensitivity to stimuli 0.809) while the children with the second pattern (23.9%) have low risk of showing any types (sensation seeking 0.378 poor registration 0.140 sensation avoiding 0.000 sensitivity to stimuli 0.289). For both analyses, goodness of fit statistics converge together.  

Conclusions: For both types of classification, children with ASD seem to divide into two types of sensory processing disorders patterns. In fact, the majority of children with ASD have difficulties in both hyper and hypo responsivity which seem to involve each sensory systems. The current results argue for a new classification of scores or a new interpretation of sensory processing difficulties in children with an ASD.

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