Occupational Therapy Program Student Theses, Dissertations and Capstones

Document Type



Relationship between sensory processing and self care for children with autism ages two to four

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Occupational Therapy

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College of Health Care Sciences – Occupational Therapy Department

Publication Date / Copyright Date



Nova Southeastern University


Objective. The research goal was to determine if behaviors indicative of sensory processing dysfunction are present in children with autism, if these behaviors can be grouped into distinctive patterns, and if there is a relationship between sensory processing dysfunction and self-care abilities.

Method. Parents of 30 male children with autism ages 2–4 completed a Dunn Sensory Profile and a Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale. A one sample t-test and Spearman rho calculation were used for data analysis.

Results. Sixty percent of the 3–4 year old group scored below negative 1 standard deviation on the Sensory Profile. This group also exhibited a pattern of sensory dysfunction in auditory, tactile, and oral systems. For the total group, there was a statistically significant correlation (rs = .646, p = .01) between the scores on Dunn Sensory Profile and Vineland and a statistically significant correlation (p = .05) between system threshold scores and Vineland.

Conclusion. The data endorse a difference in sensory responsivity in children with autism which has a specific pattern. A relationship between sensory processing and the occupation of self-care is present. Response threshold is related to a child's self care performance. There is a developmental trend of increased atypical sensory behaviors in children with autism that may have clinical significance for the occupational therapist.


Occupational Therapy


Health and environmental sciences, Psychology, Autism, Four-year-old, Self-care, Sensory, Two-year-old

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