Will Sensory-focused Autism Therapy show Early Promise?


Children on the spectrum often have difficulty processing sensory information. Their senses may be under-sensitive or over-sensitive or both at different times during a day. These sensory fluctuations can affect behavior and consequently, their day-to-day life.

To understand and determine if sensory-focused autism therapy has better results, scientists studied children who were undergoing sensory motor therapy and children undergoing traditional behavioral therapy.

About 30 boys aged between 3-12, along with their parents, participated in a six-month study. The boys were divided into two groups. Children from both the groups participated in daily behavioral therapy; one group of children also received sensory motor therapy.

The scientists have noted that the environmental enrichment therapy, commonly referred to as sensory therapy, had a positive effect on the children who received it.

We saw a 600% greater likelihood of having a positive clinical outcome in individuals that had enriched environments compared to those receiving the standard care that children have been receiving for autism up to this point," says Michael Leon – a scientist who was part of the study.

During the course of the study in which children received sensory motor therapy, parents were given a kit containing a wide range of materials. These materials were used to stimulate senses of the child with ASD. They stimulated the child’s sense of sight, movement, texture, temperature, and smell. The kit also contained scented oils like lavender, apple, vanilla, sweet orange, etc. Textured materials were also included in the kit – smooth foam, sponges, sandpaper, hardwood flooring, etc.

Children were also allowed to play with a piggy bank containing fake plastic coins, Play-Doh, beads, pictures of famous art, etc. In addition, the kit contained a bowl that could hold warm or cold water.

The parents were asked to conduct a minimum of two sensory sessions with their child. They were also asked to run 5-7 different exercises during a session that had the children make use of different combinations of items that were included in the kit.

The usual time for each session was for about 20-30 minutes. Apart from the sessions, the children listened to classical music during the day.

During the six-month study period, parents were encouraged to slowly increase the complexity of the sensory therapy exercises.

After the six-month study, children who were a part of the sensory therapy had significantly improved as compared to the group of children who only received the standard therapy. About 45% of children in the sensory therapy group showed an improvement in their ability to relate to people and in responding to sounds and sights. In the group of children who hadn’t received the sensory therapy, similar improvement was seen in only 8-10% of children.

Additionally, the group of boys who received sensory therapy improved their scores for cognitive function. Parents of the group of children who received sensory therapy, noticed an overall improvement in their children’s ASD symptoms.

A crucial point that was observed in the study was that, while a standard therapy is more effective if a child receives it earlier, sensory therapy seems to be effective in both younger and older children.

So, will sensory-focused autism therapy show early promise?

There isn’t a simple answer to this question. But from the study we can note that:

  • Treatment for children with ASD should start early

  • There is certain improvement with two sessions a day for six-months

  • Can be done at home and at a low cost

For more information regarding sensory therapy, cognitive skills, developmental disorders, and early intervention, please contact Stepping Stones Center. We emphasize acquiring new and appropriate behaviors, while also working on helping the child achieve developmentally age appropriate milestones through evidence-based practices.

#behavioranalysis #Appliedbehavioranalysis #ASDBehavior #cognitivebehavior #behaviourproblems #AutismResearch #autismtreatment #autismdiet #Developmentaldelay #autismspectrumdisorder #AutismSpectrumDisorder #MildASD #ASDNetwork #ASD #ASDParents

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