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Effectiveness of Sensory Integration Therapy Unknown

By Catherine Croft Swanwick, Ph.D. on May 28, 2012

Background:  Sensory-based therapies are increasingly used for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, but the American Academy of Pediatrics now cautions parents about the lack of research regarding their effectiveness. Many autistic children are overly sensitive to sensory input (i.e., sound, light, touch).  Sensory–based therapies aim to help them cope with these sensitivities in daily life.


What’s New:  The lack of data about sensory integration therapy spurred the council of pediatricians to make three main recommendations, summarized here:

  1. At this time, pediatricians should not use sensory processing disorder as a diagnosis.  Instead, when sensory symptoms are present, other neurodevelopmental disorders should be considered.
  2. Pediatricians should recognize and communicate with families about the limited data on the use of sensory-based therapies for childhood developmental and behavioral problems.
  3. Pediatricians can teach families to evaluate the effectiveness of sensory-based therapies, such as with trial periods and monitoring techniques.

Why It’s Important:  Although sensory-based therapy may be acceptable as one component of a comprehensive treatment plan, parents and pediatricians should closely monitor its effects.


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