Evidence Based Practice

Evidence Based Practice in Sensory Integration

The SPIRAL Foundation strives to promote evidence based practice (EBP) by conducting quality research and supporting therapists to locate relevant research to inform their practice. This page displays some of the evidence that is available right now about sensory processing and integration theory, assessment, and intervention and how sensory processing presents in different populations. Researchers across the profession continue to advocate for and carryout research to further support understanding the experiences of individuals with sensory processing differences and interventions.

We hope this resource is helpful for professionals, individuals, and families who are connected to sensory integration and processing to further their clinical practice or to share with others in their lives to better understand sensory processing and integration.

Evidence for Sensory Integration Intervention

Effectiveness of Occupational Therapy Using a Sensory Integration Approach: A Multiple-Baseline Design Study

This study investigated the effectiveness of Ayers Sensory Integration® (ASI) in children with sensory based motor disorder. Researchers found improved motor performance and positive goal outcomes using ASI intervention with this population.

The Effect of Sensory Integration Therapy on Occupational Performance in Children with Autism

This article investigated the effectiveness of sensory integration therapy (SIT) based on Ayres Sensory Integration® (ASI) on the occupational performance of autistic children. Through occupation-focused outcome measures, researchers found that SIT positively affected children’s performance in communication and interaction, processing, and motor skills, as well as interactions with their caregivers and environment.

Promoting the development of foundation phase learners in under-resourced environments using Ayres Sensory Integration® principles and custom-designed, low-cost playgrounds

This article provides evidence that children who are involved in playgrounds designed within the framework of Ayres Sensory Integration® (ASI) demonstrate an improvement in scores related to balance, sense of direction, midline crossing, and gross motor skills when compared to a control group.

Sensory Processing and Autism

Sensory Processing in Children With and Without Autism: A Comparative Study Using the Short Sensory Profile 

This study investigated the differences in sensory processing among children 3-6 years old with and without Autism. Results found that 95% of autistic children demonstrated some degree of sensory processing challenges, with greatest differences from the comparison group being with Under responsive/Seeks Sensation, Auditory Filtering, and Tactile Sensitivity.

Relationship Between Sensory Processing and Participation in Daily Occupations for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review of Studies That Used Dunn’s Sensory Processing Framework

This systematic review examined current literature about the relationship between sensory processing and its impacts on daily occupations in children. Results found that sensory profiles of autistic children both supported and hindered their participation in occupations. For example, children were more likely to participate in leisure activities that matched their sensory needs and demonstrate difficulties in the areas of education, sleep, and self-care.

The Sensory Environment and Participation of Preschool Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

This qualitative article explored the sensory environment in schools and its effect on school participation for autistic students. The article looked at teachers’ perspectives on the classroom environment and modifications implemented (e.g. classroom lighting, reduced visual distractions, increased use of visual schedules).

Executive Functioning: A Mediator Between Sensory Processing and Behaviour in Autism Spectrum Disorder 

This article looked at the relationship between executive functioning, sensory processing, and behavior in Autism. This study indicated a strong relationship between emotional regulation (an executive functioning domain) and sensory processing, highlighting its importance for understanding sensory modulation and sensory processing.

Sensory Processing and Adults

Perception of Aversive Auditory Stimuli Is Different in Sensory Modulation Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

This study examined differences in the perception of auditory stimuli in adults with sensory modulation disorder (SMD) with those who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Individuals with SMD found to have unique auditory sensitivities not common with those with ADHD, supporting previous findings to differentiate SMD from ADHD.

Sensory profiles in adults with and without ADHD.

This study looked at the differences in sensory experiences in adults with and without ADHD. Researchers found that those with ADHD scored higher in low registration (not noticing/responding to certain stimuli) and sensory sensitivity (intensified input). Results suggest that individuals with ADHD may simultaneously notice and miss stimuli in their environment with modulation challenges in unpredictable environments.

A Path From Childhood Sensory Processing Disorder to Anxiety Disorders: The Mediating Role of Emotion Dysregulation and Adult Sensory Processing Disorder Symptoms

This study looked at the relationship between self-reported sensory processing disorder (SPD) symptoms in childhood and the likelihood of meeting full diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder in adulthood. Results indicated childhood SPD is associated with a higher likelihood of meeting the criteria for anxiety disorder as an adult.

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