This information is updated as scientists in the SPD Scientific Work Group inform the SPD Foundation about their new findings.
The SPD Scientific Work Group, initially founded in 2002, is a collaboration of researchers who have been conducting studies to further the understanding of SPD. Funded by the Wallace Research Foundation, these researchers have helped develop a blueprint for current and future research into SPD.
Information about the scientists is available by clicking on their name. Please visit the active member listing for biographical information and links to work group member's websites.
In a study of children born between July 1995 and September 1997 in the New Haven, CT area 16% of 7 to 11 year olds had symptoms of SPD-SOR (Ben-Sasson et al., 2009). That is the same as 1 in 6 children. An earlier study in younger children (Ahn et al., 2004) found a prevalence of 5%, which is 1 in 20 children.
Several groups (Ben- Sasson et al., 2009; Keuler et al., 2011; May-Benson et al., 2009; Schneider et al., 2007, 2008, 2009; Wickremasinghe et al. in press;) suggest the following are possible risk factors associated with SPD:
Schneider’s group (Schneider et al., 2007, 2008, 2009; Moore et al., 2008) working with non-human primates provided corroborating evidence. They found that SPD-SOR was associated with maternal stress during gestation, drug and/or alcohol use by mothers during pregnancy, and postnatal lead exposure. PET scans revealed up-regulation of D2-receptor binding that correlated with increased behavioral withdrawal responses to tactile stimuli, supporting the hypothesis that neurophysiologic factors contribute to the expression of SOR behavior.
Studies also suggest a possible genetic susceptibility for tactile and auditory SOR (Goldsmith et al., 2006).
SPD, like other DSM-IV recognized disorders such as ADHD and depression, can occur together with other mental disorders, but SPD quite often occurs alone, in the absence of other disorders.
Separate research groups, in different areas of the USA, have reported that many individuals with SPD-Sensory Over-Responsive (SOR) symptoms do not have other disorders:
Studies have shown that characteristics of SPD-SOR are stable and most often continue from 1 to 8 years of age in children who are not treated.
Individuals with SPD-Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR) have been reported to be 4 times more likely to also have internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety) and 3 times more likely to have externalizing problems (e.g., aggression; Ben-Sasson et al., 2009).
Children with SPD-SOR have been reported to have impaired participation in daily life activities (e.g., lower levels of activities, reduced frequency of activities, less enjoyment of activities) with a direct relationship between severity of sensory symptoms and degree of activity impairment (Bar-Shalita et al., 2008).
Additionally, adults with SPD demonstrate social-emotional difficulties and impairments in quality of life (e.g., increased symptoms of anxiety, decreased sense of vitality, decreased social functioning, decreased general health, and increased bodily pain; Kinnealey et al., 2011).
Several studies have shown that children with SPD- Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR) have different physiological (i.e., electrodermal) responses to sensory stimuli compared to typically developing control children (McIntosh et al., 1999; Miller et al., 2012; Schoen et al., 2009) as well as children with autism spectrum disorders (Schoen et al., 2009) and ADHD (Miller et al., 2001). In particular, children with SPD-SOR were reported to have an increased number of and larger electrodermal responses to sensory stimuli as well as slower rates of habituation compared to typically developing control children (McIntosh et al., 1999). Additionally, children with SPD-SOR had greater levels of baseline arousal and higher reactivity in response to sensory stimuli than children with autism spectrum disorders (Schoen et al., 2009).
Studies suggest that children with SPD-SOR have different neurophysiological (i.e., brain) responses to sensory stimuli than controls (Brett-Green et al., 2010; Davies & Gavin, 2007; Davies et al., 2009, 2010; Gavin et al., 2011).
Occupational therapy researchers and clinicians have developed effective behavioral treatments for SPD (Miller et al., 2007a, b, c). The most promising intervention that we know of is the STAR model. This model includes the following elements;
For more information see SPDstar.org and
SPD symptoms have been shown to affect individual relationships as well as family engagement in personal and social routines. Differences between families with a child who has SPD and those who have typically developing children include the following for families with SPD:
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