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Sensory Integration and the Child with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Author(s): Helena S. Reis and Pedro J. Bargão

Pp: 81-102 (22)

DOI: 10.2174/9789811446771120010008

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


Since the disorder was first identified, difficulty in processing, integrating and responding to sensory stimuli has been described as a feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Current estimates show that between 42 and 98% of children with ASD demonstrate these sensory difficulties and sensory features (i.e.: hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in the sensory aspects of the environment) that are now included as one of four possible manifestations of ‘Restricted, Repetitive Patterns of Behavior, Interests, or Activities’ (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Families report that behaviours associated with difficulties in processing and integrating sensory information create social isolation for them and their child, restrict participation in daily living activities and impact social engagement. Three types of Sensory Processing disorders are distinguished: (1) sensory modulation disorders, which affect the regulation of the level or intensity of the response that occurs in the presence of the sensory information, thus differentiating between over-responsiveness, under-responsiveness and sensory seeking, (2) sensory discrimination disorders, which affect the ability to distinguish and identify sensory inputs, and (3) sensorimotor integration disorders, which involve a difficulty in transforming sensations into motor responses, including postural disorders with a sensory basis and developmental dyspraxia, in which ideation and motor planning are compromised, producing difficulties in learning new motor tasks. Consequently, interventions to address problems associated with difficulty processing sensory information, such as occupational therapy using sensory integration are among the most often requested services by parents of children with ASD.

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing Dysfunction.

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