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Background of the Study

Autism

is

general

term

used

to

describe

group

of

complex neuro-developmental disorders also known as Pervasive


Developmental Disorders (PDD) or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
These

disorders

are

characterized,

in

varying

degrees,

by

challenges related to: Communication Social Interaction


Restrictive or repetitive behaviors and interests People with
autism may also experience other difficulties including medical
issues,

differences

disturbances,

in

altered

coordination
eating

and

habits,

muscle

anxiety

or

tone,

sleep

disordered

sensory perceptions. (2013 Autism Speaks Inc. Autism Speaks and


Autism Speaks Its Time To Listen & Design are trademarks owned
by Autism Speaks Inc.)
Children

with

ASD

also

tend

to

have

overly

focused

interests. Children with ASD may become fascinated with moving


objects or parts of objects, like the wheels on a moving car.
They might spend a long time lining up toys in a certain way,
rather than playing with them. They may also become very upset if
someone accidentally moves one of the toys. Repetitive behavior
can also take the form of a persistent, intense preoccupation.1
For example, they might be obsessed with learning all about
vacuum cleaners, train schedules, or lighthouses. Children with

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ASD often have great interest in numbers, symbols, or science


topics. (National Institute of Mental Health A Parents Guide
to Autism Spectrum Disorder)
Autisms

symptoms

often

include

difficulty

processing

sensory information such as textures, sounds, smells, tastes,


brightness and movement. These difficulties can make ordinary
situations feel overwhelming. As such, they can interfere with
daily function and even isolate individuals and their families.
This study is one of the first to show that a therapy is
effective in helping to ease such sensory difficulties in ways
that improve daily function, comments child psychologist Lauren
Elder, Autism Speaks assistant director for dissemination science
Sensory integration therapy, as practiced by occupational
therapists, uses play activities in ways designed to change how
the brain reacts to touch, sound, sight and movement. While the
therapy is not new, it has remained somewhat controversial. Part
of the problem has been the many different techniques that have
been used under the name sensory integration, Dr. Elder notes.
The

rationale

is

that

by

changing

how

sensations

are

processed by the brain, we help children with autism make better


sense

of

the

information

they

receive

and

use

it

to

better

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participate

in

everyday

tasks,"

says

lead

researcher

Roseann

Schaaf.

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