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Sensory Processing Subtypes in Autism: Association with Adaptive Behavior

Abstract

Children with autism are frequently observed to experience difficulties in sensory processing. This study examined specific patterns of sensory processing in 54 children with autistic disorder and their association with adaptive behavior. Model-based cluster analysis revealed three distinct sensory processing subtypes in autism. These subtypes were differentiated by taste and smell sensitivity and movement-related sensory behavior. Further, sensory processing subtypes predicted communication competence and maladaptive behavior. The findings of this study lay the foundation for the generation of more specific hypotheses regarding the mechanisms of sensory processing dysfunction in autism, and support the continued use of sensory-based interventions in the remediation of communication and behavioral difficulties in autism.

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Acknowledgments

We wish to express our gratitude to: the participating children and their parents, Ms Carrie Partington, for her involvement in data collection; Drs Paul Williamson and Simon Dennis for statistical support and advice; and Drs Lucy Miller and Sarah Schoen for their comments on early versions of this paper. This study was supported in part by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation, South Australia.

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Correspondence to Alison E. Lane.

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Lane, A.E., Young, R.L., Baker, A.E.Z. et al. Sensory Processing Subtypes in Autism: Association with Adaptive Behavior. J Autism Dev Disord 40, 112–122 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-009-0840-2

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Keywords

  • Sensory processing
  • Autism
  • Subtypes
  • Adaptive behavior
  • Communication
  • Model-based cluster analysis