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Keywords:

  • Sensory modulation/processing;
  • hyper/hyporesponsiveness;
  • autism;
  • developmental disabilities

Background:  This study describes a new caregiver-report assessment, the Sensory Experiences Questionnaire (SEQ), and explicates the nature of sensory patterns of hyper- and hyporesponsiveness, their prevalence, and developmental correlates in autism relative to comparison groups.

Method:  Caregivers of 258 children in five diagnostic groups (Autism, PDD, DD/MR, Other DD, Typical) ages 5–80 months completed the SEQ.

Results:  The SEQ's internal consistency was α′ = .80. Prevalence of overall sensory symptoms for the Autism group was 69%. Sensory symptoms were inversely related to mental age. The Autism group had significantly higher symptoms than either the Typical or DD groups and presented with a unique pattern of response to sensory stimuli –hyporesponsiveness in both social and nonsocial contexts. A pattern of hyperresponsiveness was similar in the Autism and DD groups, but significantly greater in both clinical groups than in the Typical group.

Conclusion:  The SEQ was able to characterize sensory features in young children with autism, and differentiate their sensory patterns from comparison groups. These unique sensory patterns have etiological implications, as well as relevance for assessment and intervention practices.