Four million children in the United States are affected by sensory processing disorder (SPD), a neurological disorder that disrupts how the brain processes and responds to stimuli. Research from the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation investigated how children with SPD could benefit from occupational therapy. They found that children’s behaviors and skills improved after a series of occupational therapy sessions. The results could support the development of more treatments for SPD.
The research team evaluated 98 children with sensory processing disorder in several environments: their homes, schools, and communities. They assessed the children using the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System II (ABAS II), which is a norm-referenced tool for measuring adaptive behavior and skills, and the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC), second edition, which measures problem behavior like inattention, aggression, and hyperactivity. The children participated in intensive, short-term occupational therapy sessions at the STAR center, a treatment facility for children with developmental disorders. They attended three to five sessions per week for a total of 30 sessions.
The results are only preliminary, but they do indicate significant improvements in adaptive behavior and emotional functioning among children with SPD. Children ages two to 13 improved an average of 12 percentile points on parent-report assessments of adaptive behavior after the therapy. This reclassified many children from the “below average” range to the “typical” range of behavior. The children also gained between 13 and 18 percentile points on their BASC scores, indicating that occupational therapy can improve emotional functioning as well as adaptive behaviors.
“The results are among the first evidence demonstrating the efficacy of the STAR treatment model, a sensory and relationship-based approach that pairs direct treatment with extensive parent education and coaching,” said Dr. Sarah Schoen, Associate Director of Research, Sensory Processing disorder Foundation and Clinical Services Advisor, STAR Center.
This research is reported by the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation.
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