Which aspects of sensory features are associated with elevated cortisol concentrations in boys with an Autism Spectrum Disorder?
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Difficulties in Sensory Features (SF) have been included in the most recent diagnostic processes for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and are more common in children with an ASD than their non-ASD peers. In addition, these difficulties with SF have been suggested as causing elevated stress and concentrations of salivary cortisol in young people with an ASD. However, previous studies have not examined the specific aspects of SF that are associated with elevated cortisol and that was the focus of this study with 135 boys with an ASD aged 6–18 years. The boys’ mothers assessed their sons’ SF with the Sensory Profile (SPr) and boys gave a sample of their saliva for cortisol extraction. Results indicated that younger boys had significantly more severe SF than adolescents and that only the younger boys’ SF was significantly associated with their cortisol concentrations. The Vestibular sensory domain was the most powerful predictor of cortisol concentration; the specific sensory-related behaviours that were most strongly related to cortisol concentrations were keeping a still upper body and spinning. These results have implications for treatment-planning to assist boys with an ASD manage their SF more effectively.
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