Children with autism or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) often have difficulty regulating sensory input from the environment. These sensory related problems include increased sensitivity to certain sounds, smells, tastes and touch.
Autism describes a spectrum of disorders that range in severity of symptoms and presentation of features. These features impact on a person’s ability to interact socially, relate to others and communicate. People with autism may also experience over or under sensitivity to sound, touch, taste, smell and light. In most cases the characteristics of autism emerge between 12 to 36 months of age. There are over half a million people in the UK with autism (Baird et al., 2006) and the prevalence of autism has been on the rise since the early 1990s. There is a need to provide appropriate sensory stimulation in order to facilitate and develop communication, whilst providing a sensory environment that addresses sensory processing needs.
Linda Messbauer has recently been featured on the She Knows Parenting web site, in an article that details the creation and use of a Multi-Sensory Environment.
The new DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) include sensory disturbances in addition to the well-established language, communication, and social deficits. One sensory disturbance seen in ASD is an impaired ability to integrate multisensory information into a unified percept. This may arise from an underlying impairment in which individuals with ASD have difficulty perceiving the temporal relationship between cross-modal inputs, an important cue for multisensory integration. Such impairments in multisensory processing may cascade into higher-level deficits, impairing day-to-day functioning on tasks, such as speech perception.
Background The Snoezelen is a multisensory intervention approach that has been implemented with various populations. Due to an almost complete absence of rigorous research in this field, the confirmation of this approach as an effective therapeutic intervention is warranted.
Method To evaluate the therapeutic influence of the Snoezelen approach. Twenty-eight relevant articles relating to individual (one-to-one) Snoezelen intervention with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) were reviewed. A meta-analysis regarding the significance of the reduction of maladaptive behaviour and the enhancement of adaptive behaviour was implemented. An analysis of standardised mean differences was used through the use of fixed effect models.
Results The primary finding was that the Snoezelen approach, when applied as an individual intervention for individuals with IDD, enabled significant and large effect size in adaptive behaviours, with generalisation to the participants' daily life.
Conclusions Weaknesses in the examined research methodologies, the heterogeneity between research designs, the small number of available research projects, and the small number of participants in each research project, prevent a confirmation of this method as a valid therapeutic intervention at this time.By: