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Sensory Behaviors in Children with Autism at Home

Sensory Behaviors in Children with Autism at Home

Recent research examined atypical sensory and repetitive behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder through video recording observations to determine the influence of environmental factors.  The participants included 32 children with autism spectrum disorder (2–12 years of age) engaging in sensory and repetitive behaviors during home activities.  Using the video recording, behavioral coding was used to determine what activity contexts, sensory modalities, and stimulus characteristics were associated with specific behavior types: hyperresponsive, hyporesponsive, sensory seeking, and repetitive/stereotypic.

Results indicated the following:

  • hyperresponsive behaviors were most associated with activities of daily living and family-initiated stimuli
  • sensory seeking behaviors were associated with free play activities and child-initiated stimuli
  • behaviors associated with multiple sensory modalities simultaneously were common, emphasizing the multi-sensory nature of children’s behaviors in natural contexts.

The hyperresponsive behaviors lasted less than a minute on a average during the context of the activity and included actions such as covering ears, negatively reacting in response to everyday sounds and sights as well as avoiding or expressing pain during everyday activities. Hyporesponsive behaviors were observed only one time in one child.  Sensory seeking behaviors involved a wide array of gross motor movements and unusual interests in the sensory aspects of their environments.   Sensory seeking behaviors most commonly involved vestibular/proprioceptive stimuli, followed by visual and tactile and then auditory.  Repetitive/stereotypic behaviors most commonly involved visual stimuli followed by auditory and then vestibular/proprioceptive.

The authors concluded that future research should consider interventions that examine appropriate environmental modifications or adaptations in order to support children with autism spectrum disorder.

Reference:  Kirby, A. V., Boyd, B. A., Williams, K. L., Faldowski, R. A., & Baranek, G. T. (2016). Sensory and repetitive behaviors among children with autism spectrum disorder at home. Autism, 1362361316632710.

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Typical Classroom Sensory-Based Problem Behaviors & Suggested Therapeutic Interventions – Download of suggested therapeutic interventions based on 12 different problem behavior categories. Find out more.

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