Sensory Modulation in Children Exposed to Continuous Traumatic Stress

This article supports and confirms what many therapists know about sensory integration difficulties and PTSD. Work with adults who have had trauma and go on to receive a misnomer diagnosis that research confirms is clearly linked to early trauma – Borderline Personality Disorder – also supports this study.

Support to help children have and maintain good mental health is critical to our role as Occupational Therapists. Read this study which explores sensory reactivity and PTSD in children, (confirming Brown, Shankar and Smith, 2009) about why therapists working in adult mental health should definitely consider changes and challenges to their clients processing and integration of sensation.


Preliminary evidence supports a possible association between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sensory modulation disorder (SMD). Nevertheless, the research focusing on this relationship in children is notably limited. This study examined children with and without PTS symptoms, by comparing their mothers’ perceptions of their responses to sensory events in daily life. Mothers of 134 non-referred children aged 5–11, exposed to continuous traumatic stress due to political violence, completed the UCLA-RI and the Short Sensory Profile questionnaires. Significant differences emerged between children with different levels of PTS symptoms in various sensory modalities. Furthermore, half of the symptomatic children had suspected clinically significant deficits in sensory processing. In addition, PTSD symptoms were significantly associated with most of the sensory processing scores. Logistic regression indicated that the overall sensory processing score was a significant predictor of group classification. The results indicate that children with PTS symptoms may be at increased risk for sensory processing deficits. Evaluation of sensory processing should be incorporated into the routine evaluation of this population in order to determine whether this is an additional factor contributing to a child’s difficulties in participating in daily activities. Subsequent intervention programs should then address the multiple needs of these children.

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