Differential associations between sensory response patterns and language, social, and communication measures in children with autism or other developmental disabilities

J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2011 Dec;54(6):1562-76. doi: 10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0029). Epub 2011 Aug 23.


Purpose: To examine patterns of sensory responsiveness (i.e., hyperresponsiveness, hyporesponsiveness, and sensory seeking) as factors that may account for variability in social-communicative symptoms of autism and variability in language, social, and communication skill development in children with autism or other developmental disabilities (DDs).

Method: Children with autistic disorder (AD; n = 72, mean age = 52.3 months) and other DDs (n = 44, mean age = 48.1 months) participated in a protocol measuring sensory response patterns; social-communicative symptoms of autism; and language, social, and communication skills.

Results: Hyporesponsiveness was positively associated with social-communicative symptom severity, with no significant group difference in the association. Hyperresponsiveness was not significantly associated with social-communicative symptom severity. A group difference emerged for sensory seeking and social-communicative symptom severity, with a positive association for the AD group only. For the 2 groups of children combined, hyporesponsiveness was negatively associated with language skills and social adaptive skills. Sensory seeking also was negatively associated with language skills. These associations did not differ between the 2 groups.

Conclusions: Aberrant sensory processing may play an important role in the pathogenesis of autism and other DDs as well as in the rate of acquisition of language, social, and communication skills.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / complications
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Language
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Developmental Disabilities / complications
  • Developmental Disabilities / physiopathology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Development
  • Language Development Disorders / complications
  • Language Development Disorders / physiopathology
  • Language Development Disorders / psychology
  • Language Tests
  • Male
  • Sensation Disorders / complications
  • Sensation Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sensation Disorders / psychology*
  • Social Behavior