Sensory Integration Therapy ineffective for Treatment of Autism, Study Finds

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, General Psychology, School Psychology on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 14:35

Sensory Integration Therapy ineffective for Treatment of Autism, Study Finds

By: Pasha Bahsoun

Parents of children with autism are faced with many options when it comes to therapy and education for their children, from applied behavior analysis (ABA) to floortime. A new study out of the University of Texas at Austin has found that one form of therapy, sensory integration therapy, is ineffective for the treatment of autism.

Many children on the autism spectrum experience sensitivities towards sensory stimuli such as sounds, light and touch. Those who practice sensory integration therapy seek to offer children small amounts of sensory input with the goal of improving how their nervous system reacts to certain stimuli. This is accomplished through objects such as weighted blankets, weighted vests and swings.

The researchers evaluated 25 studies on sensory integration therapy and found that there was no scientific evidence that symptoms of autism were improved. Three of the studies suggested that the treatment was effective and 14 studies reported no benefits. They went further to indicate that several of the studies, including the three studies reporting positive results, had serious methodological flaws. Therefore, based on this evaluation, they were not able to support sensory integration therapy for the treatment of children with autism.

The researchers noted that sensory integration therapy may even exacerbate the symptoms of autism because it provides reinforcement for unwanted behaviors by providing access to desirable activities, like bouncing on balls, and being allowed to escape tasks like homework. In addition, children who receive this form of therapy are oftentimes also receiving other behavioral interventions simultaneously, which would undermine their effectiveness.

Agencies providing services for children with autism, as well as insurance companies, are now mandating that only evidence and research-based practices be used in interventions, which at the moment is only applied behavior analysis.

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Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/sensory-integration-therapy-ineffective-for-treatment-of-autism-study-finds


Sensory Integration Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review


Intervention studies involving the use of sensory integration therapy (SIT) were systematically identified and analyzed. Twenty-five studies were described in terms of: (a) participant characteristics, (b) assessments used to identify sensory deficits or behavioral functions, (c) dependent variables, (d) intervention procedures, (e) intervention outcomes, and (f) certainty of evidence. Overall, 3 of the reviewed studies suggested that SIT was effective, 8 studies found mixed results, and 14 studies reported no benefits related to SIT. Many of the reviewed studies, including the 3 studies reporting positive results, had serious methodological flaws. Therefore, the current evidence-base does not support the use of SIT in the education and treatment of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Practitioners and agencies serving children with ASD that endeavor, or are mandated, to use research-based, or scientifically-based, interventions should not use SIT outside of carefully controlled research.


► Research involving sensory integration therapy to autism was reviewed. ► Out of 25 studies, three studies had positive results. ► Serious methodological flaws were found across studies. ► The evidence-base does not support the use of SIT in the treatment of autism.

Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1750946712000074


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