Sensory Processing and Autism

Newsletter March 2014

Did you know?

In 2013 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) was revised by The American Psychiatric Association. The revised manual, DSM-5, has significant changes to the criteria for the diagnosis of autism.

There is no longer the separate terms of ‘autistic disorder’ and ‘Asperger’s disorder’ as found in DSM-IV. The diagnostic name is now ‘autistic spectrum disorder’ (ASD) and this name encompasses both autism and Asperger’s disorder.

The previous ‘triad’ of impairment has been replaced by 2 main areas:

  • social communication and interaction
  • restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities

Sensory processing problems (ie hyper- or hypo reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in the sensory aspects of the environment)
are now included as one of the four possible manifestations of ‘Restricted, Repetitive Patterns of Behaviour, Interest or Activities.

A new study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, supports parent reports that sensory integration therapy improves daily function in children with autism. This was a small but rigorous study of children with autism aged 4 – 8 years. 32 children with autism were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Over a 10 week period, the control group received ‘usual care’ with standard speech, behavioural and other therapies. The experimental group
received the same ‘usual care’ plus 3 hours per week of sensory integration therapy. At the endof the 10 week period, the children in the sensory integration group scored significantly higher on attaining their goals. In addition, standardised tests showed that they required less assistance from their parents in self-care and social situations.

Where can I get more information?


Introduction to Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Disorder

Tuesday 11 March 2014

The aim of this one day course is to provide teachers and health professionals with an understanding of sensory processing disorder and the everyday difficulties that children and adults experience at school, at home and in residential settings. Practical support strategies will be explored from both an educational and therapy perspective. Parents are welcome to attend this course at a reduced rate of £ 100 per parent.

Sensory Processing and Autism

Tuesday 29 April 2014

The aim of this one day course is to provide professionals working with individuals with autism, a more in depth understanding of sensory processing difficulties as related specifically to autism, and the everyday difficulties that children and adults experience in different settings. Practical support strategies will be explored from both an educational and therapy perspective.

Useful Resources



This quarterly magazine is designed for parents of young children with autistic spectrum disorder, however
it is full of useful information for all those working with children with
autism. A year’s subscriptioncosts £ 15.



Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration by Ellen Yack, Shirley Sutton and Paula Aquilla. Very useful practical guide for parents and professionals focusing on children diagnosed with autism or other pervasive developmental disorders. It clearly explains the sensory systems and how to identify problems with sensory processing. There are check lists to identify concerns and it is full of practical suggestions for activities for specific difficulties.


dentist_optOff We Go!A range of books and iTunes Apps to help prepare a child with autism for daily life situationssuch as going to the dentist, hairdresser, a birthday party. There is a free interactive online version of’Going to the Hairdresser’ book available on the ‘Off We Go’ website.



templegrandindvdTemple Grandin starring Claire Danes (Homeland). An excellent film on the life of Temple Grandin. It provides really helpful insight into the difficulties Temple encountered and in particular her sensory problems.
Please read the Disclaimer and be aware that the information in this newsletter is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice.