Researchers in the US have unveiled findings that suggest Occupational Therapy for Autism using the principles of sensory integration (OT-SI) provide better outcomes on parent-identified goals than standard care.
The study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders used sensory integration strategies, a form of treatment that is frequently requested by parents. This intervention identifies the type of sensory difficulties and then designs playful activities to help make sense of the sensation.
Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in the US used either sensory integration or standard care on 32 autistic children aged four to eight.
Examples of OT-SI include the identification of parent-set goals, such as the ability for their child to take a shower without becoming distressed and exhibiting overly disruptive behaviours. Where this behaviour would traditionally be treated by a behavioural therapist by providing rewards for incremental increases in time spent in the shower, an occupational therapist would assess whether there were any sensory factors affecting this activity.
Assessments would take place of the child's ability to tolerate the water hitting their skin, or managing the auditory, visual, tactile, and olfactory sensations during the shower, as well as whether the child was managing their body sensations-called proprioception-and use that information to design specific activities that address these difficulties.
Children in the OT-SI group scored significantly higher in goal attainment than those in the behavioural group, as well as needing less help from their parents with activities and socialisation. Problem behaviour associated with poor sensory processing was also improved.
Lead Author Dr Roseann Schaaf said: "By changing how sensations are processed and integrated by the brain we help children with autism make better sense of the information they receive."
Original Source The British Psychological Society
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