Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 283-293

First online:

Sensory-Perceptual Abnormalities in Autism: A Case For More Research?

  • Meena O'NeillAffiliated withGwynedd Community Health Trust and University of Wales
  • , Robert S. P. JonesAffiliated withGwynedd Community Health Trust and University of Wales

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Sensory-perceptual abnormalities in people with autism are discussed from two perspectives: published firsthand accounts and existing psychological research evidence. A range of abnormalities, including hyper- and hyposensitivity, sensory distortion and overload, and multichannel receptivity and processing difficulties, are described in firsthand accounts and frequently portrayed as central to the autistic experience. A number of dangers are inherent in uncritically accepting these accounts at face value and in any wider generalization to the autistic population as a whole. Evidence from clinical studies suggests that unusual sensory responses are present in a majority of autistic children, that they are manifested very early in development, and that they may be linked with other aspects of autistic behavior. In addition, experimental studies using a range of indices have found evidence of unusual responses to sensory stimuli in autistic subjects. However the clinical and experimental research to date suffers from serious methodological limitations and more systematic investigation is warranted. Key issues for future psychological research in the area are identified.