Sensory Over-Responsivity and Emotion Regulation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Introduction
While there has been considerable clinical and research effort in delineating the problems of social interaction, communication, and cognition in those with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), the disturbances of sensory processing and the performance of emotion regulation remain less explored. Emotion regulation is the modification of any process in the system that generates emotion or its manifestation in behavior. The processes that modify emotions come from the same set of processes as the ones that are involved in emotion in the first place. Levels of emotion regulation are one of the main concerns of caregivers and occupational therapists because they are essential for helping with the integration of a child into daycare and school. However, emotion regulation is not documented much in scientific literature on ASDs. Sensory processing involves the registration and modulation of sensory information, as well as the internal organization of sensory input. This allows human beings to execute successful adaptive responses to situational demands and thus engage meaningfully in daily occupations (Humphry, 2002). Approximately 10% of the pediatric populations in the United States have severe over- or under-responsiveness to sensory stimuli that interfere with activities of daily living (ADL) (Ahn, Miller, & Milberger, 2002). Although sensory over-responsivity has been identified in children with specific diagnoses such as autism (Baranek et al. 2006; Liss et al. 2006; Miller et al. 2007; Rogers & Ozonoff 2005), occupational therapists often receive referrals for children with ASDs to mitigate sensory processing difficulties and help families cope more effectively. Sensory over-responsivity, however, has only been minimally described separate of this diagnosis (Kinnealey and Fuiek 1999; Kinnealey et al., 1995) and has still failed to be recognized unanimously as an independent syndrome. In sum, the impact of sensory over-responsivity on emotion regulation has not yet been investigated in children with ASDs. In order to better understand the specific needs of school-age children with ASDs and to facilitate their emotion regulation competence, it is important to document the relationship between sensory over-responsivity and emotion regulation in children with ASDs. The purpose of this reaction paper is a literature review of the relationship between sensory over-responsivity and emotion regulation in children with ASDs in order to use the information in later research, which will investigate whether sensory over-responsivity is associated with the emotion regulation of children with ASDs. Sensory Over-Responsivity and Children with ASDs
Children with ASDs struggle with social interaction problems, communication impairments, and restricted and repetitive behaviors (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Although sensory over-responsivity is not included in current diagnostic criteria, studies using caregiver questionnaires have consistently found children with ASDs to exhibit atypical behavioral responses to sensory input (Baranek et al, 2006; Rogers, Hepburn, & Wehner, 2003; Tomchek & Dunn, 2007). There is a growing body of literature on the disturbances of sensory processing in children with ASDs. A study conducted by Kern et al. (2001) of 39 children with a diagnosis of autism or pervasive development disorder (3 to 11 years of age) found that sensory difficulties were one of the most common of the associated clinical features observed in the children. On Dunn’s (1999) Sensory Profile, an instrument sensitive to anomalous sensori-motor behavior, 32 individuals with autism scored significantly higher than the control group on 85% of the items across all factors. Watling et al. (2001) found that 8 of 10 Sensory Profile factor scores of 40 children with autism indicated abnormality relative to matched...
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