Sensory over-responsitivity is now considered to be a core feature of autism (Ben-Sassoon et al, 2009). Children with autism are five times more likely to have sensory over-responsitivity than members of the general public (Green & Ben-Sasson, 2010).
Sensory processing difficulties are a unique predictor of communication competence and maladaptive behaviors (Lane et al, 2010).
Sensory stimulation (such as a loud noise or scratch sweater) causes hyperactivation in the primary sensory cortex (responsible for initially processing sensory information) and amygdala of children with autism. What’s more autistic brains do not ‘get used’ to the sensory information over time – their responses remain elevated (Owen et al, 2013).
Simply replacing fluorescent lights with softer and colored lighting, playing soothing music and using butterfly wraps that provide calming deep pressure dramatically decreased anxiety and negative behaviors among children with autism (Stein et al, 2013).
Deep pressure is therapeutically beneficial for children with an autism spectrum disorder (Grandin, 1992; Edelson et al, 1999).
Ben-Sasson, A., Hen, L., Fluss, R., Cermak, S. A., Engel-Yeger, B., & Gal, E. (2009). A meta-analysis of sensory modulation symptoms in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39, 1–11.
Edelson, S. M., Edelson, M. G., Kerr, D. C., & Grandin, T. (1999). Behavioral and physiological effects of deep pressure on children with autism: A pilot study evaluating the efficacy of Grandin’s Hug Machine. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 53(2), 145-152.
Grandin, T. (1992). Calming effects of deep touch pressure in patients with autistic disorder, college students, and animals. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 2(1), 63-72.
Green, S. A., & Ben-Sasson, A. (2010). Anxiety disorders and sensory over-responsivity in children with autism spectrum disorders: is there a causal relationship?.Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 40(12), 1495-1504.
Lane, A. E., Young, R. L., Baker, A. E., & Angley, M. T. (2010). Sensory processing subtypes in autism: Association with adaptive behavior. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 40(1), 112-122.
Owen, J. P., Marco, E. J., Desai, S., Fourie, E., Harris, J., Hill, S. S., & Mukherjee, P. (2013). Abnormal white matter microstructure in children with sensory processing disorders. NeuroImage: clinical, 2, 844-853.
Stein, L. I., Polido, J. C., & Cermak, S. A. (2013). Oral care and sensory over-responsivity in children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatric Dentistry, 35, 230-235.