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Sensory integration therapy for sensory processing difficulties in children with autism spectrum disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common lifelong condition affecting 1 in 100 people.

ASD affects how a person relates to others and the world around them. Difficulty responding to sensory information (noise, touch, movement, taste, sight) is common in ASD.

Sensory integration therapy (SIT) is a type of face-to-face therapy or treatment provided by trained occupational therapists (OT) who use play-based sensory-motor activities to influence the way the child responds to sensation, reducing distress and improving concentration and interaction with others.

Research suggests SIT might be helpful for some children. We are therefore interested in whether, compared to treatment normally offered to families (‘usual care’), SIT improves children’s behaviour socialisation and daily functioning.

Usual care could involve some contact with an occupational therapist (OT), who might give parents or carers strategies to practice at home with their child.

We will recruit 216 children and assess behaviour, daily functioning, socialisation, and parent/carer stress at six and 12 months. Participants will be allocated at random to either receive SIT or usual care. Discussion groups for therapists and carers will be organised before approaching people to take part for ‘usual care’ to be mapped out.


This project is funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme.

Research leads

Rachel McNamara

Dr Rachel McNamara

Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director for Mind, Brain and Neuroscience

+44 (0)29 2068 7614
Delport, Sue

Sue Delport

Senior Lecturer & Clinic Lead: Occupational Therapy

+44 (0)29 206 87790