Characteristics of Sensory Processing Behaviors of Adopted Children with Trauma
OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to investigate sensory characteristics of children between the ages of 5 and 12 who have experienced abuse and neglect.
METHOD. Parents of 408 adopted children (M=7.89, SD=2.03) with known pre-adoption history of abuse, neglect, or no abuse/neglect reported their children’s sensory processing abilities using the Short Sensory Profile (SSP; McIntosh, et al., 1999).
RESULTS: Seventy-nine percent of the sample had a degree of sensory processing dysfunction on SPP Total Score: Forty-one percent of children with a Definite Difference and thirty-eight percent with a Probable Difference. Children who experienced abuse (n=147) present with impairments in Tactile Sensitivity (84.4%) and Taste/Smell Sensitivity (47.6%). Both groups presented with significant differences in Underresponsive/Seeks Sensation and Auditory Filtering, however, children who experienced neglect (n=125) seem to be more affected in Underresponsive/Seeks sensation (neglect=83.2%; abuse=57.8%)
CONCLUSION: The findings align with prior studies, confirming sensory processing impairments in children with adverse early life histories. This study further expands upon the understanding of the sensory processing differences for children of early adversity, with indicators of characteristic differences in patterns of sensory processing amongst children of abuse vs. neglect. Children of early adversity with atypical sensory processing may present with challenging to manage behaviors. Practitioners may be able to use sensory processing principles when guiding families in the management of child internalizing and externalizing. Children of early adversity may benefit from Occupational Therapy, Social Work, and Psychology professionals to identify individual sensory processing dilemmas and to establish individual, family, and environmental interventions to mitigate the impact of the sensory processing challenges upon daily activity performance success.