The Relationship between Sensory Sensitivity and Autistic Traits in the General Population
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Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) tend to have sensory processing difficulties (Baranek et al. in J Child Psychol Psychiatry 47:591–601, 2006). These difficulties include over- and under-responsiveness to sensory stimuli, and problems modulating sensory input (Ben-Sasson et al. in J Autism Dev Disorders 39:1–11, 2009). As those with ASD exist at the extreme end of a continuum of autistic traits that is also evident in the general population, we investigated the link between ASD and sensory sensitivity in the general population by administering two questionnaires online to 212 adult participants. Results showed a highly significant positive correlation (r = .775, p < .001) between number of autistic traits and the frequency of sensory processing problems. These data suggest a strong link between sensory processing and autistic traits in the general population, which in turn potentially implicates sensory processing problems in social interaction difficulties.
KeywordsAutism Sensory processing Autism Spectrum Quotient Autistic traits
Ashley Robertson was supported by an EPSRC-CTA studentship, an ESRC-CASE +3 studentship (funded in collaboration with Carers Link East Dunbartonshire) and an EPSRC-KTA grant during the course of this research. David Simmons was partially supported by a grant from ESRC (“Social interactions: A cognitive neurosciences approach” (RES-060-25-0010)). These data have been presented as a poster at the International Meeting for Autism Research (Chicago, 2009) and the Scottish Autism Research Group (Edinburgh, 2010). This paper will also be included as a chapter in Ashley Robertson’s doctoral thesis. We would like to thank Prof. Frank Pollick, Dr Mary Stewart, Dr Dave McGonigle and Dr Iain McClure for valuable comments during the development of the questionnaire, and on the manuscript. For a copy of the Glasgow Sensory Questionnaire (to be used for research purposes only), please contact either author.
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