Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 7, pp 1493-1506

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

An Intervention for Sensory Difficulties in Children with Autism: A Randomized Trial

  • Roseann C. SchaafAffiliated withDepartment of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of the Farber Institute of Neuroscience, Thomas Jefferson University Email author 
  • , Teal BenevidesAffiliated withDepartment of Occupational Therapy, Jefferson School of Health Professions
  • , Zoe MaillouxAffiliated withPediatric Therapy Network
  • , Patricia FallerAffiliated withChildren’s Specialized Hospital
  • , Joanne HuntAffiliated withChildren’s Specialized Hospital
  • , Elke van HooydonkAffiliated withChildren’s Specialized Hospital
  • , Regina FreemanAffiliated withChildren’s Specialized Hospital
  • , Benjamin LeibyAffiliated withDivision of Biostatistics, Thomas Jefferson University
  • , Jocelyn SendeckiAffiliated withDivision of Biostatistics, Thomas Jefferson University
    • , Donna KellyAffiliated withChildren’s Specialized Hospital


This study evaluated a manualized intervention for sensory difficulties for children with autism, ages 4–8 years, using a randomized trial design. Diagnosis of autism was confirmed using gold standard measures. Results show that the children in the treatment group (n = 17) who received 30 sessions of the occupational therapy intervention scored significantly higher (p = 0.003, d = 1.2) on Goal Attainment Scales (primary outcome), and also scored significantly better on measures of caregiver assistance in self-care (p = 0.008 d = 0.9) and socialization (p = 0.04, d = 0.7) than the Usual Care control group (n = 15). The study shows high rigor in its measurement of treatment fidelity and use of a manualized protocol, and provides support for the use of this intervention for children with autism. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for practice and future research.


Autism spectrum disorders Intervention Sensory functions