Occupational Therapy Program Student Theses, Dissertations and Capstones

Document Type



Sensory modulation and affective disorders in children and adolescents with asperger syndrome

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Occupational Therapy

Copyright Statement

All rights reserved. This publication is intended for use solely by faculty, students, and staff of Nova Southeastern University. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, now known or later developed, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher.


College of Health Care Sciences – Occupational Therapy Department

First Advisor

Carol Niman Reed

Publication Date / Copyright Date



Nova Southeastern University


Objective. The purpose of the study was to determine if there were significant relationships between dysfunction in sensory modulation, affective disorders, and adaptive behaviors in children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17. There were four main hypotheses: (a) there will be a positive relationship between sensory defensiveness and anxiety, (b) there will be a positive relationship between sensory hyposensitivity and depression, (c) there will be a negative relationship between the levels of anxiety and depression and overall adaptive behaviors, and (d) there will be a negative relationship between levels of hyper and hyposensitivity and overall adaptive behavioral functioning.

Method. Parents of 46 children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17 diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome based on the DSM-IV-TM criteria completed the (a) Sensory Profile for children ages 6 to 10 or the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile for adolescents ages 11 to 17; (b) the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System: Parent Version; (c) Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale Adapted Parent's Version; and (d) the Children's Depression Inventory Adapted Parent's Version. Descriptive statistics and the Pearson product-moment coefficient of correlation calculations were used for data analysis.

Results. There were statistically significant positive correlations between anxiety and sensory defensiveness (r = .270, p = .035) in the total group and depression and sensory hyposensitivity in only the older group (r = .461, p =.024). There was an inverse significant relationship between depression and the total adaptive behaviors score (r = −.256, p = .043) and specific inverse relationships with the adaptive behaviors of functional academics, leisure and social skills. The relationship between anxiety and adaptive behaviors was not significant (r = −.121, p = .212) although there was a significant inverse relationship between sensory defensiveness and adaptive behaviors (r = −.254, p = .044). The relationship between hyposensitivity and adaptive behaviors approached significance (r = −.214, p = .077).

Conclusion. The data supports relationships between anxiety and sensory defensiveness in all age ranges and the relationship between depression and hyposensitivity in older children. A temporal relationship between anxiety and depression may explain the developmental nature of the results. Depression and sensory defensiveness demonstrated significant inverse relationships with overall adaptive behavior functioning. Occupational therapy evaluations and interventions need to address these relationships when treating children with Asperger Syndrome.


Occupational Therapy


Health and environmental sciences, Psychology, Adolescents, Affective disorders, Asperger syndrome, Children, Sensory modulation

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