Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 631–642 | Cite as

Parent Reports of Sensory Symptoms in Toddlers with Autism and Those with Other Developmental Disorders

  • Sally J. Rogers
  • Susan Hepburn
  • Elizabeth Wehner


The Short Sensory Profile was used to assess parental report of sensory reactivity across four groups of young children (n = 102). Groups were autism (n = 26), fragile X syndrome (n = 20), developmental disabilities of mixed etiology (n = 32), and typically developing children (n = 24). Groups were comparable on overall mental age (x = 22 months), and clinical groups were comparable on chronological age (x = 31 months). Significant differences were detected at alpha <.01 for tactile sensitivity [F(3,99) = 10.01], taste/smell sensitivity [F(3,99) = 11.63], underreactive/seeks stimulation [F(3,99) = 4.56], auditory filtering [F(3,99) = 19.67], and low energy/weak muscles [F(3,99) = 14.21]. Both children with fragile X syndrome and children with autism had significantly more sensory symptoms overall than the two comparison groups, and children with autism did not differ significantly from children with fragile X syndrome. Both groups were more impaired than developmentally delayed and typically developing children in tactile sensitivity and auditory filtering. Children with autism were more abnormal in responses to taste and smell than all other groups. Children with fragile X syndrome were more abnormal than all other groups in low energy/weak muscles. Sensory reactivity of children with developmental delays was comparable to mental age–matched typically developing toddlers. Correlational analyses indicated that neither overall developmental level nor IQ was related to abnormal sensory reactivity in children with autism or general developmental disorders. However, abnormal sensory reactivity had a significant relationship with overall adaptive behavior.

Autism developmental delays sensory parent report fragile X syndrome 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bishop, D. V. M. (1997). Cognitive neuropsychology and developmental disorders: Uncomfortable bedfellows. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 50A, 899-923.Google Scholar
  2. Cox, A., Klein, K., Charman, T., Baird, G., Baron-Cohen, S., Swettenham, J., Drew, A., Wheelwright, S., & Nightingale, N. (1999). The early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder: Use of the autism diagnostic interview-revised at 20 months and 42 months of age. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40, 719-732.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Dahlgren, S. O., & Gillberg, C. (1989). Symptoms in the first two years of life: A preliminary population study of infantile autism. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 238, 169-174.Google Scholar
  4. Dunn, W., Myles, B. S., & Orr, S. (2002). Sensory processing issues associated with Asperger syndrome: Apreliminary investigation. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 56, 97-102.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Dunn, W. (1999). Development and validation of the short sensory profile. In W. Dunn (Ed.), The sensory profile examiner's manual. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  6. Goldstein, H. (2000). Commentary: Interventions to facilitate auditory, visual, and motor integration: “Show me the data”. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 423-425.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Grandin, T., & Scariano, M. M. (1986). Emergence, labeled autistic (1st ed.). Novato, CA: Arena Press.Google Scholar
  8. Hollingshead, A. B. (1975). Four factor index of social status. New Haven, CT: Author.Google Scholar
  9. Kientz, M. A., & Dunn, W. (1997). A comparison of the performance of children with and without autism on the sensory profile. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 51, 530-537.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Lord, C. (1995). Follow-up of two-year-olds referred for possible autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 36, 1365-1382.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Lord, C., Rutter, M., DiLavore, P., & Risi, S. (1999). Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-WPS Edition. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
  12. Lord, C., Rutter, M., & Le Couteur, A. (1994). Autism diagnostic interview-revised: A revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24, 659-685.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Lord, C., Storoschuk, S., Rutter, M., & Pickles, A. (1993). Using the ADI-R to diagnose autism in preschool children. Infant Mental Health Journal, 14, 234-252.Google Scholar
  14. McIntosh, D. N., Miller, L. J., & Shyu, V. (1999). Development and validation of the short sensory profile. In W. Dunn (Ed.), The sensory profile examiner's manual. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  15. Miller, L. J., McIntosh, D. N., McGrath, J., Shyu, V., Lampe, M., Taylor, A. K., Tassone, F., Neitzel, K., Stackhouse, T., & Hagerman, R. J. (1999). Electrodermal responses to sensory stimuli in individuals with fragile X syndrome: A preliminary report. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 83, 268-279.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Miller, L. J., Reisman, J., McIntosh, D. N., & Simon, J. (2001). An ecological model of sensory modulation: performance of children with fragile X syndrome, autism, attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity and sensory modulation dysfunction. In S. Smith-Roley, E. Imperatore-Blanche, & R. C. Schaaf (Eds.), Understanding the nature of sensory integration with diverse populations. San Antonio, TX: Therapy Skill Builders.Google Scholar
  17. Mullen, E. M. (1995). Mullens scales of early learning. (AGS ed.). Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  18. Ornitz, E. M., Guthrie, D., & Farley, A. H. (1977). The early development of autistic children. Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 7, 207-229.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Sparrow, S. S., Balla, D. A., & Cicchetti, D. (1984). Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  20. Thelen, E. (1966). Normal infant stereotypes: A dynamic systems approach. In R. L. Sprague & K. M. Newell (Eds.), Sterotyped movements: Brain and behavior relationships.Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  21. Wing, L. (1969). The handicaps of autistic children: a comparison study. Journal of Child Psychology and Child Psychiatry, 10, 1-40.Google Scholar
  22. Wing, L., & Gould, J. (1979). Severe impairments of social interaction and associated abnormalities in children: epidemiology and classification. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 9, 11-29.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sally J. Rogers
    • 1
  • Susan Hepburn
    • 2
  • Elizabeth Wehner
  1. 1.M.I.N.D. Institute, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of CaliforniaDavis, Sacramento
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Colorado Health CenterDenver

Personalised recommendations