Feasibility of a Sensory-Adapted Dental Environment for Children With Autism

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE. To provide an example of an occupational therapy feasibility study and evaluate the implementation of a randomized controlled pilot and feasibility trial examining the impact of a sensory-adapted dental environment (SADE) to enhance oral care for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

METHOD. Twenty-two children with ASD and 22 typically developing children, ages 6–12 yr, attended a dental clinic in an urban hospital. Participants completed two dental cleanings, 3–4 mo apart, one in a regular environment and one in a SADE. Feasibility outcome measures were recruitment, retention, accrual, dropout, and protocol adherence. Intervention outcome measures were physiological stress, behavioral distress, pain, and cost.

RESULTS. We successfully recruited and retained participants. Parents expressed satisfaction with research study participation. Dentists stated that the intervention could be incorporated in normal practice. Intervention outcome measures favored the SADE condition.

CONCLUSION. Preliminary positive benefit of SADE in children with ASD warrants moving forward with a large-scale clinical trial.

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