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Oral care and sensory sensitivities in children with autism spectrum disorders

Authors

  • Leah I. Stein MA, OTR/L,

    Corresponding author
    1. Doctoral Student, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
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  • José C. Polido DDS, MS,

    1. Board Certified Pediatric Dentist, Head-–Division of Dentistry, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, and Associate Professor of Clinical Dentistry, School of Dentistry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
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  • Zoe Mailloux MA, OTR/L, FAOTA,

    1. Executive Director of Administration and Research, Pediatric Therapy Network, Torrance, California
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  • Gina G. Coleman MA, OTR/L,

    1. Executive Director of Practice and Education, Pediatric Therapy Network, Torrance, California
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  • Sharon A. Cermak Ed.D., OTR, FAOTA

    1. Professor of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.
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  • Spec Care Dentist 31(3): 102-110, 2011

Corresponding author e-mail: lstein@usc.edu

ABSTRACT

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are at high risk for oral disease. The aim of this study was to examine the contribution of sensory processing problems to challenges in receiving oral care for children with ASD.

A questionnaire was sent to the parents of 206 children with disabilities to test the hypotheses that children with ASD, relative to children with other disabilities, experience greater difficulty with home-based and professional oral care, and that these difficulties may relate in part to sensory processing problems. The results partially supported these hypotheses. Compared to children with other disabilities, those with ASD had greater behavioral difficulties and sensory sensitivities that parents believed interfered with their child’s oral care. Among children with ASD, sensory sensitivities were associated with oral care difficulties in the home and dental office, and with behavioral difficulties in the dental office. Utilizing strategies to modify the sensory environment may help facilitate oral care in children with ASD.

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