Sensory integration therapy (SIT) has been one of the treatment mainstays for thousands of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, or other developmental disorders. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), approximately 5 to 15% of children in the general population have sensory processing issues.School-based and private occupational therapists and parents have brushed, swung, and bounced on balls countless children in an effort to improve their ability to process sensory input. Yet, the effectiveness of this therapy, despite accolades it has received from therapists and parents, has been questioned. Now a new study by Lang et al that assesses the benefits of SIT by reviewing 25 existing studies adds additional fuel to the debate. In a nutshell, the study authors state that SIT is neither effective nor research-based and that agencies (such as schools) that are mandated to provide research-based interventions should not be using SIT.
Lang et al culled electronic data bases for different studies that purported to measure the effectiveness of SIT. To be included in the Lang review, the study had to meet certain inclusion criteria; namely, at least one participant had to be diagnosed with an ASD and some form of SIT had to be implemented in an effort to ameliorate the symptoms of the ASD. The SIT was then classified as positive, negative, or mixed depending on its effectiveness. Additionally, the methodological rigor of the study was examined to determine if the study had a true experimental design that among other things could be replicated.