Sensory clusters of toddlers with autism spectrum disorders: differences in affective symptoms


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Abstract

BackgroundIndividuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) show variability in their sensory behaviors. In this study we identified clusters of toddlers with ASDs who shared sensory profiles and examined differences in affective symptoms across these clusters.MethodUsing cluster analysis 170 toddlers with ASDs were grouped based on parent rating of the Infant Toddler Sensory Profile (Dunn, 2002) under-responsivity, over-responsivity, and seeking scales. Affective symptoms were evaluated with the Infant Toddler Social Emotional Assessment (Carter & Briggs-Gowan, 2005).ResultsThree clusters were identified: (1) low frequency of sensory symptoms (n=44); (2) high frequency of symptoms (n=49); and (3) mixed (n=77); high frequency of under-and over-responsivity and low frequency of seeking). Relative to the low frequency cluster, parents rated toddlers in the high frequency and mixed clusters (both characterized by high frequencies of sensory under- and over-responsivity) as higher on negative emotionality, depression, and anxiety symptoms. Sensory and affective differences among clusters remained after co-varying severity of ASD symptoms.ConclusionsInterdisciplinary assessments are recommended for toddlers with ASDs in order to identify the interplay of sensory and affective symptoms.

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