Parent reports of sensory experiences of preschool children with and without autism: a qualitative study

Am J Occup Ther. 2009 Mar-Apr;63(2):172-81. doi: 10.5014/ajot.63.2.172.


This study describes sensory experiences of children with and without autism. Parents of 66 preschoolers (29 typically developing; 37 with autism) described situations in which their child had "good" and "bad" sensory experiences and their perception of how these situations felt to the child. The most common unpleasant experiences for both groups related to sound; the most common pleasant experiences involved touch and movement. Children with autism were reported to have more extreme or unusual experiences and negative food-related experiences than typically developing peers. Parental explanations for children's responses focused on the qualities of the child, stimulus, or context. Parents of children with autism were more likely to recognize elements in their children's experiences as being sensory and to attribute those responses to aspects of autism. Parents' positive response to the interview itself was an unexpected result with clinical relevance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Perception
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sensation*