Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Symposium #352
CE Offered: BACB
Sensory Integration: What Is the Emperor Wearing and Why Does Everybody Think He Looks Great?
Monday, May 31, 2010
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
202AB (CC)
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Ann Filer (BEACON Services)
Discussant: David M. Corcoran (BEACON Services)
CE Instructor: James Boscoe, M.A.
Abstract: Despite and absence of empirical support for the etiology of sensory integration (SI) theory or evidence for the effectiveness of SI therapy, the practice of an SI approach is popular if not predominant in autism treatment. This widespread and often unquestioned acceptance of SI contrasts with the skeptical reception (if not outright rejection) of the educational community to applied behavior analysis based interventions. This symposium will examine SI from three perspectives. First a review of the research on SI will be conducted highlighting the lack of empirical support for the effectiveness of SI interventions will be conducted. The second presentation will focus on the common practices of SI treatment with a focus on procedural descriptions of treatments implemented and how the common SI practices often do not address basic standards of treatment. The final presentation will be a look at three studies involving SI treatments that were conducted with experimental controls in place.
Sensory Integration: What Does the Research Say, and Does It Matter?
JOSEPH M. VEDORA (BEACON Services), Robert K. Ross (BEACON Services)
Abstract: Among the most commonly implemented interventions for children with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder are procedures purported to address “sensory issues”. These interventions are predicated on the hypothesized existence of a condition described as sensory integration dysfunction (Ayres, 1986). According to a review conducted by sensory integration advocates (Ayres sensory integration), “over 80 studies have been published on evidence in the effectiveness of sensory integration methods sensory integration, many have methodological flaws. Most do not report fidelity and those that do have minimally adhered to the fidelity principles that define Ayres Sensory Integration”. The fact that a large number of studies have been conducted and that the evidence in support of sensory integration (SI) procedures is still missing has been largely ignored. Proponents of SI as well as the administrators of educational settings where SI interventions are typically implemented do not appear to view this absence of support as problematic. This presentation will review some potential reasons for this reality and its implications for the acceptance of applied behavior analysis based treatments.
Implementation Practices in Sensory Integration Treatment: What Are the Standards?
KIM KLEMEK (BEACON Services), Robert K. Ross (BEACON Services)
Abstract: Many students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are also often described as having “sensory processing dysfunction” or “sensory Integration issues”. As a result many of these children receive recommendations for sensory integration (SI) therapy. The current presentation is an empirical review of the methods of identifying SI issues, treatment recommendations, and procedures to implement SI interventions in a sample of over 50 children with ASD. A review of the treatment records of these individuals indicated that over 40% have been identified as having SI issues. The data on how SI issues were identified (formal assessment protocols versus informal methods) will be presented. Additionally, data on the specific treatment recommendations will be reviewed. This review will consider the presence or absence of specified treatment goals and defined treatment procedures, and whether or not baseline levels of the behaviors in question were established. These data clearly indicate that basic treatment standards are typically not met for the individuals receiving these forms of treatment in the records reviewed in this sample. Recommendations for minimum requirements of SI procedures will be described.
Implementation of Sensory Integration Procedures: Outcome Data
Abstract: Despite the fact that many students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are treated with interventions for hypothesized “sensory integration” (SI) issues. The effectiveness of protocols implemented to address these conditions remain largely unsubstantiated. Unlike other unsupported treatments for children with autism such as Secretin injections, facilitated communication, etc., SI Therapies enjoy unprecedented acceptance in early childhood educational settings. A recent review of 50 randomly chosen individualized education programs (IEP) of children with ASD receiving applied behavior analytic services found that over 40% had sensory issues identified and or SI goals included in the IEP. The current presentation is a review of the outcomes of four research projects where SI treatments were recommended by certified occupational therapists. These data indicate that the SI treatments had little to no effect on the target behavior. A discussion of why SI treatments continue to be widely accepted despite the absence of efficacy data and what applied behavior analysis practitioners can do to highlight the cost in resources to implement such treatments.



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