Title : Sensory processing in autism spectrum disorders: literature review and perspective on the latest theories
Background: Since the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders: DSM-5, sensory processing anomalies have for the first time been identified as diagnostic criteria in the international classification and thus been recognized as part of the core symptoms in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Their clinical relevance and their critical importance for the patients is underlined by numerous first-person accounts, and many recent studies have investigated their epidemiology as well as their behavioral and neurophysiological links with the other core symptoms of ASDs. In the past years, several explanatory models of autism have been developed in relation with the atypical sensory processing features found in these disorders.
Methods: In this presentation, we summarize the research data found in a systematic literature review about sensory anomalies in ASDs, with regard to epidemiology, clinical presentations, and neurophysiology. We then summarize the latest explanatory theories based on perception in autism, and discuss the implications of the recent data in relation with them, as well as the latest research directions.
Findings: Sensory anomalies in ASDs are characterized by the variability of their presentation and of their clinical impact, not only between individuals but also in time. At present the underlying physiological mechanisms and their relation with the other core symptoms in autism are not fully understood, but much progress has been made in the last years, as research focus on these anomalies has been increasing. Several models show interesting perspectives for explaining atypical sensory processing as well as other core symptoms in ASDs. Some could account for the complexity and clinical features variability of the autism spectrum, as well as provide indications for underlying neurological processes and even treatment possibilities.
Main ideas of the presentation:
- Sensory processing anomalies in autism are described and their clinical relevance is emphasized
- Their complexity is highlighted by the summarized literature results
- The latest and most promising explanatory theories of autism take these anomalies into account or even consider them at the origin of the peculiarities of the autistic functioning
- Further research perspectives are examined in relation with these theories
Audience take away:
The audience will be familiarized with one of the main clinical issues in ASDs, that has until recently been very often ignored by many clinicians. This presentation is also an opportunity to exchange about an interesting topic in recent research on ASDs, and on the latest advances in the exploration of the aetiology of ASDs.