AAP Cautions Against Diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory-based therapy can be integrated into comprehensive plan; limited data for effectiveness

TUESDAY, May 29 (HealthDay News) -- Pediatricians should avoid the use of sensory processing disorder as an independent diagnosis and should integrate sensory-based therapy as one part of a comprehensive treatment plan, according to a policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published online May 28 in Pediatrics.

Michelle Zimmer, M.D., from the AAP's Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine and Council on Children With Disabilities, and colleagues reviewed the literature regarding sensory processing disorder and the effectiveness of sensory integration therapy.

As there is no accepted framework for diagnosis of sensory processing disorder, the authors recommend avoiding the diagnosis. A thorough evaluation should be completed, and other developmental and behavioral disorders should be considered, including autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, developmental coordination disorders, and childhood anxiety disorders, which may include difficulty tolerating or processing sensory information. Occupational therapy, using sensory-based therapies, may be acceptable as one of the components of a comprehensive treatment plan, but pediatricians should make clear to families that data regarding its effectiveness are limited and inconclusive. Pediatricians should help families to identify whether treatment has been effective. Pediatricians should notify families that occupational therapy is a limited resource and work with families to prioritize treatment to help children perform daily functions of childhood.

"Important roles for pediatricians and other clinicians may include discussing these limitations with parents, talking with families about a trial period of sensory integration therapy, and teaching families how to evaluate the effectiveness of a therapy," the authors write.

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