The Relationship Between Autistic Traits and Atypical Sensory Functioning in Neurotypical and ASD Adults: A Spectrum Approach
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Sensory processing atypicalities are a common feature in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and have previously been linked to a range of behaviours in individuals with ASD and atypical neurological development. More recently research has demonstrated a relationship between autistic traits in the neurotypical (NT) population and increased levels of atypical sensory behaviours. The aim of the present study is to extend previous research by examining specific patterns across aspects of autistic traits and sensory behaviours within both ASD and NT populations. The present study recruited 580 NT adults and 42 high-functioning ASD adults with a confirmed diagnosis to investigate the relationship between specific aspects of autistic traits and sensory processing using the subscales of the autism spectrum quotient (AQ) and adult/adolescent sensory profile (AASP). Results showed a significant relationship between all subscales except for attention to detail and imagination on the AQ and provided the first evidence that the strength and pattern of this relationship is identical between NT and ASD adults. These data also provided support for the broader autism phenotype, uncovering a clear progression of sensory atypicalities in line with an increase in autistic traits, regardless of diagnostic status, which has potential implications for the spectrum approach to ASD and how sensory behaviours across the whole of the neurotypical population are conceptualised.
KeywordsAutism spectrum disorders Autistic traits Sensory processing Broader autism phenotype Autism spectrum quotient
This research was carried out with the support of the University of Roehampton. Thank you to all the ASD and typically developing adults who participated in this study. I would also like to thank Dr. Lance Slade for commenting on earlier drafts of this manuscript.
JLM conceived the study and design, coordinated the study and performed the measurement, performed the statistical analysis and drafted the manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University or Roehampton, the British Psychological Society and the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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