Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Sensory Perception Quotient (SPQ) and autism

Today I'd like to bring to your attention the paper by Teresa Tavassoli and colleagues [1] (open-access) who talked about the development of the Sensory Perception Quotient (SPQ), a new tool designed to assess "basic sensory hyper- and hyposensitivity" across our basic senses, specifically with the autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) in mind. For those who follow the IMFAR meetings, you might have already heard something about the SPQ in previous years (see here).

The purpose of the Tavassoli paper was three-fold: (i) assess how valid and reliable the SPQ was against a rival tool looking at the sensory domain: the SensOR Inventory [2], [ii] "to investigate if adults with and without ASC show differences on the SPQ" and (iii) to look at whether/how sensory issues linked to the signs and symptoms of autism, via use of another quotient, the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ).

The results: well, bearing in mind everything was done on-line: "The SPQ shows good internal consistency and concurrent validity and differentiates between adults with and without ASC". Also: "greater sensory sensitivity is associated with more autistic traits".

Obviously there is quite a bit more to do on the SPQ before anyone gets too carried away, including the possibility of examining a broader sensory phenotype if the findings by Mirko Uljarević and colleagues [3] survive replication. The fact that participants were all adults and all able to self-report is an important point to make about the Tavassoli study, as were their scores on the [adapted] Raven's Progressive Matrices looking at cognitive functioning putting those on the autism spectrum in the typical range on a par with control participants. As an aside, I'm happy that Raven's was used in this trial given some conversations I remember having with the late Ann-Mari Knivsberg who was a big fan of this schedule.

As the authors note, the inclusion of sensory issues into the revised DSM-5 diagnostic schedule means that there is going to be a lot more focus on these issues as and when the DSM-5 starts picking up diagnostic momentum around the world. More than that though, the authors importantly talk about how the SPQ might be a useful aid to those archetypal all-rounders, the OTs, in "assessing the sensory needs of people with autism". Surely anything that helps them do their job more efficiently and person-centred has got to be a good thing.

To close, a new Flash Gordon movie potentially due? How can they possibly improve on the last one... Flash, ah, ah... (by Queen).

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[1] Tavassoli T. et al. The Sensory Perception Quotient (SPQ): development and validation of a new sensory questionnaire for adults with and without autism. Molecular Autism 2014, 5:29

[2] Schoen SA. et al. Pilot study of the Sensory Over-Responsivity Scales: assessment and inventory. Am J Occup Ther. 2008 Jul-Aug;62(4):393-406.

[3] Uljarević M. et al. First evidence of sensory atypicality in mothers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Molecular Autism 2014, 5:26.

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ResearchBlogging.org Tavassoli, T., Hoekstra, R., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2014). The Sensory Perception Quotient (SPQ): development and validation of a new sensory questionnaire for adults with and without autism Molecular Autism, 5 (1) DOI: 10.1186/2040-2392-5-29