SPD Foundation Research

Research Priorities

Researchers at the SPD Foundation are currently at work studying the following topics.

  • Multisensory integration in typically developing children
    We completed the first study of multisensory integration in children, representing an important and fundamental step toward our goal of understanding multisensory integration in children with Sensory Processing Disorder. Findings from this study were published in 2008 in the journal Brain Research.

  • Multisensory integration in children with SPD
    Research related to determining whether the different subtypes of children with SPD show evidence of atypical multisensory integration at the cortical level is ongoing. We completed a study of 20 children with the Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR) subtype of SPD. This study confirms that MSI can be reliably measured in children with SOR. In addition, data suggest that the integration of multisensory (audio-tactile) input appears to be atypical in children with SOR. We currently are increasing our sample size and conducting a direct comparison between children with SPD and those who are typically developing.

  • Treatment effectiveness
    Two studies on treatment effectiveness using OT with a sensory integration approach (OT-SI) have been completed. Their findings were published in the March-April 2007 issue of the American Occupational Therapy Journal.

    Planned is a new treatment effectiveness study measuring multisensory integration and electrodermal activity before and after OT-SI and listening therapy. The purpose will be to obtain behavioral data and determine if any variables in these measures will be useful outcome measures of treatment effectiveness. To date we have pre- and post-case study data on 10 subjects.

    We are also conducting a retrospective chart review of ~120 clients seen at STAR Center over the past 3 years. We will be reporting on behavioral changes that result from use of an intensive treatment model.

  • Gold standard for diagnosis of SPD
    Our work on the Sensory Processing Scales (e.g., measuring Sensory Over- and Under-Responsivity and Sensory Seeking/Craving) continues. These scales are performance measures administered directly to the child (not parent-report measures as are currently used). An article was published by the American Journal of Occupational Therapy in August 2008 with research from two separate samples on the SP scales (Sensory Over-Responsive subtest (n > 200). A pilot version of the Sensory Under-Responsive and Sensory Seeking/Craving subscales has been constructed and field tested by half a dozen experienced occupational therapists. Revisions are currently underway based on their feedback. Having a performance measure for SOR, SUR, and SS is critical for collecting a homogeneous sample in research, for clinical precision in identifying children who need services, and for designing appropriate treatment services.

  • Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) study
    The aim of this study was to characterize the sensory functioning of individuals with PWS using behavioral and physiologic measures. Specifically, we used an extensive parent interview and parent-report measures. We also measured autonomic nervous systi function in individuals with PWS in reaction to sensory stimuli using the Sensory Challenge Protocol as was used in our previous studies with children who have SPD, ADHD, autistic spectrum disorders, and Fragile X Disorder. We completed parent interviews, physiologic testing, and parent report measures of sensory behaviors on 12 children with PWS. Preliminary findings were presented at the Foundation for Research in Prader-Willi annual conference 2007. A manuscript is in preparation for submission in 2010.

  • Other publications
    An article entitled was published in the 2009 SPD special issue of Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience. Spearheaded by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, this article explores the convergence between two fields, the clinical field of sensory integration and the basic neuroscience field of sensory integration. This can be confusing due to terminology overlap and since one is a basic science field and the other is clinical we are calling in this paper for the two fields to collaborate! This would be especially useful for those who study multisensory integration (MSI).

    Also published in the 2009 special SPD issue of Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience was an article entitled "Physiological and Behavioral Differences in Sensory Processing: A Comparison of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Modulation Disorder". Led by Dr. Sarah A. Schoen, this paper describes the first research study to directly compare and contrast children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and children with Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD). Results indicated that physiological arousal was significantly lower in children with ASD, whereas reactivity in response to each sensory stimulus was higher in SMD, particularly to the first stimulus in each sensory domain. Additionally, the ASD group had more taste/smell sensitivity and sensory under-responsivity, while the SMD group had more atypical sensory seeking behavior.
Back to top

Research published or in press by the SPDF

The following peer-reviewed research by the SPD Foundation has been published or is currently in press. Click on a title to read the article in Our Library.

Key articles related to the validity of SPD

View more articles from our SPD Scientific Work Group in

Numerous additional peer-reviewed articles and other publications of SPD Foundation researchers are filed by topic area in Our Library.

Back to top