Sensory Integration and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Sensory & Autism Spectrum Disorders

Sensory integration dysfunction is a common symptom of autism. Often, autistic children receive too much sensory stimulation through one or more of their senses, and in order to turn down the volume, they tend to avoid people, noises and bright lights. Autistic children do not develop the neurotypical capacity to integrate and modulate information from the five senses.

In her book, Thinking in Pictures, Temple Grandin reports the results of a survey about sensory integration in a relatively small population with autism spectrum disorders from one center:

"A survey of sensory problems in 30 adults and children was conducted by Neil Walker and Margaret Whelan from the Geneva Center for Autism in Toronto. Eighty percent reported hypersensitivity to touch. Eighty-seven percent reported hypersensitivity to sound. Eighty-six percent had problems with vision. However, thirty percent reported taste or smell sensitivities"

Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Other Disorders

A growing number of experts, including Stanley Greenspan, M.D., Ph.D., and autism specialist Ricki Robinson, M.D., believe that sensory related disorders are frequently misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, as well as emotional problems, aggressiveness and speech-related disorders such as Apraxia. Sensory processing, they argue, is foundational, like the roots of a tree, and give rise to a myriad of behaviors and symptoms such as hyperactivity and speech delay. For example, a child with an under-responsive vestibular system may need extra input to his "motion sensor" in order to achieve a state of quiet alertness. To get this input, the child might fidget or run around, appearing ostensibly to be hyperactive, when in fact, he suffers from a sensory related disorder