Roseann C. Schaaf, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Most Recent Peer-reviewed Publications
- Toward a Best-Practice Protocol for Assessment of Sensory Features in ASD
- Interrater reliability and discriminative validity of the structural elements of the ayres sensory integration® fidelity measure©
- Sensory interventions for children with autism
- Response from authors to comments on "An intervention for sensory difficulties in children with autism: A randomized trial"
- State of measurement in occupational therapy using sensory integration
Research and Clinical Interests
Sensory Processing Disorders; Autism, Autonomic Nervous System Activity
Autism is the most common developmental disability of childhood. Approximately 90% of individual's with Autism experience sensory dysfunction (SD-such as spinning self or flicking hands in front of face) that substantially interferes with function. Parents and teachers indicate that these are some of the most challenging obstacles to participation in activities for children. Clearly, understanding SD in autism and subsequently, developing and testing new, innovative treatment approaches to ameliorate sensory dysfunction in autism is an important public health concern. Nevertheless, SD in autism is poorly characterized, its underlying mechanisms are not understood, and interventions to address it lack an adequate theoretical basis and empirical data to support their utility.
Dr. Schaaf's research represents a novel approach and a new and promising research direction on autism from which to characterize sensory dysfunction (behaviorally and physiologically), examine relations between behavioral and physiological measures of SD, and then examine their impact on adaptive behavior (defined as performance of daily activities required for personal and social sufficiency) and participation (defined as successful engagement in home, school and community activities).
The Sensory Challenge Protocol (SCP), a unique and innovative research protocol designed to measure autonomic reactivity to sensation in a controlled laboratory environment. The vagal tone index, the parasympathetic marker, and the mean number and magnitude of peaks of electrodermal activity, the sympathetic markers, are measured.
The findings from this study address a range of important and clinically relevant questions and will be used to guide "best practice" by providing data to enhance understanding of the impact of SD on behavior and participation. In addition, the findings will serve as a basis for the next phase of this program of research -development and testing interventions for SD.