Revised scored sensory perception quotient reveals sensory hypersensitivity in women with autism

Emily Taylor, Rosemary Holt, Teresa Tavassoli, Chris Ashwin, Simon Baron-Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Previous research using the Sensory Perception Quotient (SPQ) has reported greater sensory hypersensitivity in people with autism spectrum condition (ASC) compared to controls, consistent with other research. However, current scoring of the SPQ does not differentiate between hyper and hyposensitivity, making it uncertain whether individuals with ASC might also show differences in hyposensitivity. Furthermore, no research to date has focused on sensory differences in females, and whether differences in sensory sensitivity extend to the broader autism phenotype (BAP). The present study aimed to fill these gaps. Methods: The present study developed and validated a Revised Scoring of the Sensory Perception Quotient (SPQ-RS) in order to investigate self-reported hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity in three groups of adults: A female ASC group (n = 152), mothers of children with ASC (BAP mothers group; n = 103), and a control mothers group (n = 74). All participants completed the SPQ as a self-report measure of sensory processing and the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) as a measure of the degree of autism traits. Results: The female ASC group reported significantly more hypersensitivity, but not more hyposensitivity, compared to the control female and BAP mothers groups. The BAP mothers group did not differ from the control mothers group in either reported hypersensitivity (p =.365) or hyposensitivity (p =.075), suggesting atypical sensory sensitivity is not a BAP trait within females. SPQ-RS hypersensitivity scores positively correlated with autistic traits in the female ASC (r =.266) and BAP mothers groups (r =.350). Conclusions: The present findings revealed greater sensory hypersensitivity, but not hyposensitivity, in females with ASC compared to BAP and control female groups, and that a greater degree of autism traits relates to higher hypersensitivity in ASC females. The results offer support for the enhanced perceptual functioning model using large samples of females, who are an understudied population, and demonstrate the validity of the SPQ-RS as a valuable new research tool for exploring self-reported hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalMolecular Autism
Volume11
Issue number1
Early online date2 Mar 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum conditions
  • Broader autism phenotype
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Sensory
  • Sensory Perception Quotient
  • females

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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