Sensory abnormalities in autism. A brief report

Res Dev Disabil. 2011 Mar-Apr;32(2):795-800. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2010.10.021. Epub 2010 Dec 15.


Sensory abnormalities were assessed in a population-based group of 208 20-54-month-old children, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and referred to a specialized habilitation centre for early intervention. The children were subgrouped based upon degree of autistic symptoms and cognitive level by a research team at the centre. Parents were interviewed systematically about any abnormal sensory reactions in the child. In the whole group, pain and hearing were the most commonly affected modalities. Children in the most typical autism subgroup (nuclear autism with no learning disability) had the highest number of affected modalities. The children who were classified in an "autistic features" subgroup had the lowest number of affected modalities. There were no group differences in number of affected sensory modalities between groups of different cognitive levels or level of expressive speech. The findings provide support for the notion that sensory abnormality is very common in young children with autism. This symptom has been proposed for inclusion among the diagnostic criteria for ASD in the upcoming DSM-V.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Asperger Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Asperger Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / physiopathology
  • Child Language
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Hypotonia / diagnosis
  • Muscle Hypotonia / physiopathology
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / diagnosis
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / physiopathology
  • Sensation Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sensation Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology
  • Stereotyped Behavior