A Scale to Identify Sensory Over-Responsivity in Children and Adults

  Sarah A. Schoen, Ph.D., OTR
Lucy J. Miller, Ph.D., OTR
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

  For over 40 years there has been a wealth of clinical literature on sensory processing problems in children; however, the problems for which these children are being treated have never been well-characterized. Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR) is one type of Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD) found to be highly prevalent in the general population and in individuals with developmental disabilities.

  Although clinically this condition is described in the literature, there is no reliable and valid diagnostic tool to measure Sensory Over-Responsivity. The literature in the field supports the existence of symptoms of SOR but there is little empirical validation of the disorder. There is a need to identify a homogeneous group for research purposes based on a measure of directly observed behaviors. In fact, there is some suggestion in the literature that measures of direct observation may be more predictive than parent- or teacher-report measures. Clinically, there are no examiner administered scales that exist (i.e., no standardized method of direct observation) for assessing SOR. In addition, no tools exist to adequately measure treatment effectiveness. Previous rating scales are largely are in the form of sensory history questionnaires relying on self report or parent/caregiverreport. The existing scales are further limited by the age range and subjects for whom they were designed, by the selection of sensory domains that they measure and by their attempt to combine over-responsive, under-responsive, seeking behaviors and discrimination items all in one test.

  This presentation describes the six phases of development of the Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR) Assessment and Inventory. Following an extensive review of the literature and the use of focus groups, items were selected to represent the seven sensory domains and to reflect functioning in daily life routines. Standardized test materials and an administration manual were created for the Research Edition of each scale. Data was collected from six participating sites to include 60 typical individuals and 65 individuals with Sensory Over-Responsivity. An initial item analysis eliminated items that did not strongly correlate with the subtest or the domain (reliability) and did not discriminate well between the typical and SOR group (validity). Analyses of the remaining items revealed high internal reliability (alpha=.8), moderately high inter-rater reliability (.63-.89) and highly significant discriminant validity. Construct validity was supported by two factor analyses for which remaining items clearly factored by domain. Revised versions (Research Edition II) of the SOR Assessment and Inventory will be used in further field testing.

Back to Library