Predictive Factors for Sensory Processing Disorders

Research Article

Phys Med Rehabil Int. 2021; 8(1): 1174.

Predictive Factors for Sensory Processing Disorders

Gandara-Gafo B1,3*, Delgado-Lobete L3*, Montes-Montes R3,4, Vila-Paz A3 and Santos-del-Riego S2,3

1Department of Health Sciences, University of A Coruna, Spain

2Department of Physiotherapy, University of A Coruna, Spain

3University of A Coruna, Health Integration and Promotion Research Unit (INTEGRA SAUDE), Spain

4University of A Coruna, Centre for Information and Communications Technology Research (CITIC), Spain

*Corresponding author: Gandara-Gafo B, Department of Health Sciences, University of A Coruna, Faculty of Health Sciences, 15006, A Coruna, Spain

Delgado-Lobete L, Health Integration and Promotion Research Unit (INTEGRA SAÚDE), University of A Coruna, 15011, A Coruna, Spain

Received: January 19, 2021; Accepted: February 23, 2021; Published: March 02, 2021


Background: Identifying sensory processing differences in children with sensory reactivity problems (both with and without prenatal and perinatal problems) is essential to providing interventions that enhance development and participation in everyday life.

Methods: This study conducted a statistical analysis between the Sensory Profile-2 sensory questionnaire and the study variables: pregnancy, fertility treatment, delivery and prematurity (n=69).

Results: This study yielded statistically significant differences in sensory processing at the visual level (p-value=0.003), in proprioception (body position) (p-value<0.001) and in emotional problems relating to stressful and traumatic pregnancy, prematurity (p-value=0.026) and high-risk pregnancy, respectively, among children with and without perinatal and prenatal problems.

Conclusions: These findings confirm that there are differences in the sensory processing of children with sensory processing disorders who have suffered perinatal and postnatal problems compared to those who have not.

Keywords: Occupational therapy; Sensory system; Prenatal; Perinatal


First described by Jean Ayres [1-4], sensory processing problems include various disorders such as sensory reactivity, difficulty in interpreting and using sensory information from the environment to regulate behaviour [5]. Sensory reactivity problems are manifested through atypical behaviours in response to sensory stimuli and affect participation in daily activities, learning, play and social relationships [6]. Prevalence studies have found that, in countries such as the United States, 13.7% of children attending regular day care centers show alterations in sensory processing [7]. This is similar to data found in Spain with a prevalence of between 14% and 28% [8] in children aged 3-10 years. The prevalence of children with sensory reactivity problems increases when specific diagnostic populations such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are analyzed with prevalences ranging from 45% to 96% [9,10]. Within Ayres Sensory Integration (ASI) theory, researchers in the field have studied possible prenatal and perinatal causes that can trigger a sensory processing problem [5,11]. From this perspective, the mother’s experiences during pregnancy are a factor that seems to be related to possible problems in the baby’s sensory processing. Among prenatal complications, the study by Schneider et al. [11] with rhesus monkeys showed that prenatal exposure to alcohol, stress or increased cortisol during pregnancy induce sensory processing problems. Other studies indicate that both neonatal complications and complications during delivery, such as fetal distress, jaundice and prolonged labour, can trigger sensory problems [5]. Prematurity is another variable related to IS problems [5,12,13]. May-Bensson et al. [5] found that between 12 and 16% of children born prematurely show sensory reactivity problems; consequently, prematurity is considered one of the essential variables in the study of perinatal factors in children with SI dysfunction.

Prenatal and perinatal complications can lead to newborn hospitalization. In this connection, sensory deprivation resulting from prolonged stays in neonatal intensive care units puts premature or critically ill infants at increased risk of sensory reactivity problems [14].

The relationship between prenatal and perinatal problems with sensory processing difficulties points to the need to identify such problems at an early age in order to provide interventions that enhance development and participation in daily life. Therefore, this study aims to identify possible differences in sensory processing in children with sensory problems (both with and without prenatal and perinatal problems).

Materials and Methods


To identify problems in sensory processing, the Sensory Profile-2 (SP-2) [15] parent-reported sensory questionnaire was used for children aged 3-14 years. This instrument analyses the processing of six sensory factors: auditory, visual, tactile, movement, body position and oral, as well as three factors relating to alterations in sensory processing: behavioural, emotional and attentional. The SP-2 follows Dunn’s Model [16], which describes the problems deriving from sensory processing, such as low registration, sensory seeking, sensory sensitivity and sensory avoiding. The SP-2 provides adequate metric data and has obtained reference values for children in the United States and Spain [15].

In order to detect prenatal and perinatal problems in children with sensory processing problems, the principal investigator (first author) extracted data relating to the study variables from the clinical interviews, which were recorded in the medical histories drawn up during the assessment process. The interview included questions relating to the pregnancy (typical, rest, high-risk, stressful-traumatic), fertility treatment, delivery (vaginal, caesarean and instrumental) and prematurity to detect prenatal and perinatal problems.


This study is a preliminary research and have involved a convenience sample of 69 children between the ages of 3 and 11 obtained from a private occupational therapy centre in A Coruña (Spain). The sample was mainly male (n=55, 79.71%) and met the following inclusion criteria: aged between 3 and 11 years, fully responding from SP-2 and having sensory processing difficulties detected by an ASI-trained occupational therapist. Of the total sample, 45 (65,21%) children have had any prenatal or perinatal problem. Of the total sample, 10 children had an ASD diagnosis. The characteristics of the sample are shown in Table 1.