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Strategies for Sensory Modulation in Autism Spectrum Disorders

presented by Gail J. Richard

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Disclosure Statement:

Financial: Gail J. Richard receives compensation from MedBridge for this course. She also receives royalties from published materials with PRO ED (LinguiSystems) and is the author of The Source for Selective Mutism.

Non-Financial: Gail J. Richard serves on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Board of Directors as President (2017) and Past President (2018).

Satisfactory completion requirements: All disciplines must complete learning assessments to be awarded credit, no minimum score required unless otherwise specified within the course.

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The sensory system plays an important role in planning intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders. Many of the behavioral disruptions are triggered by hyper and hypo sensory responses to environmental stimuli. Collaboration with occupational therapy can assist with understanding the various sensory channels (i.e., proprioceptive, vestibular, visual, tactile, auditory, gustatory, olfactory). Sensory stimuli can trigger aberrant behavior, but can also be used to calm and focus individuals with ASD. This course will explain the different sensory systems and offer strategies to facilitate sensory modulation.

Meet Your Instructor

Gail J. Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP

Gail J Richard, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, worked in the public schools in Iowa for four years before joining the faculty at Eastern Illinois University, where she has been for 35 years. She was Chair of the Department of Communication Disorders & Sciences for 14 of those years, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, and supervising in the…

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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1. Overview of the Sensory System

The neurology of children with autism spectrum disorders is biochemically different, resulting in differences in the way the child reacts and responds to sensory stimuli. Different sensory responses are part of the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5 (APA, 2013). Sensory integration (Ayres, 1979) is defined as the ability to organize sensory input in an effective way to interact with the environment. This chapter will outline the sensory system differences in autism spectrum disorder and the importance of collaborating with occupational therapy to address the sensory challenges.

2. Strategies for Modulation in Specific Sensory Systems

Disruptive behavior in autism spectrum disorders is often linked to abnormal processing of sensory stimulation. Internal biochemical changes trigger hyper and hypo sensory system reactions, throwing the system out of balance and resulting in behavioral outbursts. Strategies to address sensory challenges in specific sensory systems will be discussed.

3. Integration of Sensory Modification Strategies

The sensory system changes over time in response to intervention and maturity. Sensory behaviors can be shaped and modified to be less disruptive while still meeting the individual’s sensory need. Professionals should ‘play detective’ to understand when a child is overwhelmed and use items to promote sensory calming. A sensory kit of items can be collected and used to maintain a biochemical balance. Global shaping and modification ideas will be shared in this section.

4. Q&A

This chapter includes a question and answer session to explore real world examples of sensory modification strategies.

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