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J Clin Med. 2019 Sep 20;8(10). pii: E1508. doi: 10.3390/jcm8101508.

Sensory Processing Issues and Their Association with Social Difficulties in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

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University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.
University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.
Fondation Pôle Autisme, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland.
University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.


Sensory processing issues have been frequently reported in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but their relationship with social and overall adaptive functioning has not been extensively characterized to date. Here, we investigate how sensory processing atypicalities relate with deficits in social skills, impaired social cognition, and general adaptive functioning in a group of preschoolers with ASD. Sixty-four children with ASD aged 3 to 6 were included in this study, along with 36 age-matched typically-developing (TD) peers. Parent-reported measures of sensory processing, social difficulties and overall adaptive functioning were collected for all children. We also obtained precise measures of social attention deployment using a custom-design eye-tracking task depicting naturalistic social scenes. Within the group of children with ASD, higher intensities of sensory issues were associated with more prominent social difficulties and lower adaptive functioning. We also found that children with ASD who had more sensory issues showed visual exploration patterns of social scenes that strongly deviated from the one seen in the TD group. The association of sensory processing atypicalities with "higher-order" functional domains such as social and adaptive functioning in children with ASD stresses the importance of further research on sensory symptoms in autism.


adaptive behavior; autism; eye-tracking; sensory processing issues; social cognition; social difficulties

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