Autism Research recently published research examining whether sensory differences can be used to classify subgroups of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The Short Sensory Profile was completed on 228 children with ASD ages 2-10 years old.
The results indicated the following:
1. four distinct sensory subtypes were identified -
(a) sensory adaptive
(b) taste smell sensitive
(c) postural inattentive
(d) generalized sensory difference.
2. the sensory subtypes differed from each other on two dimensions: (a) the severity of reported sensory differences; and (b) the focus of differences across auditory, taste, smell, vestibular and proprioceptive domains.
3. Upon examination of the clinical features of each subtype two possible mechanisms of sensory disturbance in autism were revealed: (a) sensory hyperreactivity; and (b) difficulties with multisensory processing.
4. Lastly, the sensory subtypes were not well explained by other variables such as age, gender, IQ, and autism symptom severity.
The researchers concluded that classification of children using sensory differences offers a possible method to identify phenotypes in ASD. In addition, further research was recommended to determine neural and physiological correlates for the sensory-based phenotypes.
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Reference: Lane, A. E., Molloy, C. A. and Bishop, S. L. (2014), Classification of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder by Sensory Subtype: A Case for Sensory-Based Phenotypes. Autism Res. doi: 10.1002/aur.1368