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Strategies for Sensory Modulation in Autism Spectrum Disorders

presented by Gail J. Richard

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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 Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. She is currently a professor emeritus and Director of the Autism Center and Students with Autism Transitional Education Program (STEP) at Eastern Illinois University. Dr. Richard specialized in childhood developmental language disorders, with expertise in autism, auditory and language processing, syndrome disorders, selective mutism, language-learning disabilities, and executive functions. She has numerous clinical publications, including The Language Processing Test, Differential Screening Test for Processing Disorders, The Source for Processing Disorders, The Source for Selective Mutism, The Source for Development of Executive Functions, The Source for Syndromes, The Source for ADD/ADHD, The Source for Autism, several clinical materials, book chapters, and articles. She has given over 500 presentations in her professional career and enjoys sharing her practical clinical knowledge with practitioners. Dr. Richard has been very engaged with professional organizations, including the Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ISHA) and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She served in many roles, with the highlight being President of ASHA in 2017. She is a Fellow of ASHA and received Honors from ISHA, as well as numerous college teaching and service awards. Her other activities included Faculty Athletics Representative for EIU and service on the NCAA Management Council, which resulted in her induction to the EIU Athletics Hall of Fame!

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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  1. Overview of the Sensory System

    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

    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

    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

    4. Q&A

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