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Autism Hypothesis and Methodology of a Hypothetical Research Study

Updated on July 27, 2017

Introduction and Hypothesis

Occupation therapy improves skill generalization and sensory integration in people with autism, which allows them to become an active member of society.

My hypothesis is not the same as the literature that I have reviewed; however, it is based directly on the results of the literature. The research that I have conducted presented me with the areas that occupational therapy can assist an autistic individual with and the results of that therapy on the individual.

The “An Intervention for Sensory Difficulties in Children with Autism: A Randomized Trial” is a case study that found that the children who received an extra three hours of sensory integration therapy per week scored higher on sensory integration. This study presented the sensory integration section of my hypothesis and it demonstrated that occupational therapy improved sensory integration, which is an important life skill that an autistic individual would require in order to participate in society. The “Occupational Transition Process” examined the occupational transition process of those with autism and the results of this study showed that those with autism could transition into active members of society with the assistance of therapy. I utilized the results of this study when writing the part of my hypothesis that states that individuals with autism can become active members of society.

Methods

An experimental research design is the most appropriate research design as my hypothesis requires causal based research. The experimental research design will provide an experimental group and a control group. This will allow for the measuring of the results from occupational therapy in instilling skill generalization, sensory integration, communication, social engagement, and task engagement. The success in teaching autistic individuals these skills would increase their ability to interact with society in a successful manner.

A randomized trial design will be used in order to create an experimental and control group composed of an equal mix of age groups and genders. The experimental group will receive three weekly one hour-long sessions with an occupational therapist; these sessions will be recorded, observed, and evaluated to ensure fidelity. The control group will continue to receive only their usual level of care with no new treatment additions or alterations during the time of the study. The occupational therapy sessions will continue for one year for those in the experimental group, while those in the control group will not alter their treatment in any way for one year.

At the conclusion of each month every participant, in both the experimental and control group, will evaluated by blinded independent evaluators. The participants will be evaluated on their skill generalization, sensory integration, communication, social engagement, and task engagement. These evaluations will allow each participant’s progress to be recorded, observed, and compared in order to chart their progress. In addition the parents or guardians will be interviewed at the conclusion of each month by blinded independent researchers on their child’s reactions to the therapy, behavior changes, as well as the parent’s own observations on any changes or lack of changes in their child.

Research Participants

The research participants selected for the study all need to be: between the ages of 6 and 12, have a confirmed diagnosis of autism from a licensed psychologist based on the results of the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (Lord et al. 1994), possess a non-verbal cognitive level greater than 65 (Schaaf Benevides et al. 2012), and have a difficultly with skill generalization and sensory integration. The parents or guardians of the research participant must be willing to be interviewed once a month for a year and refrain from starting any new treatments for one year, and be willing to not alter the participants’ current treatment for the period of one year. In order to avoid gender bias, an equal number of male and female participants shall be recruited for the research study.

The research study will require 100 research participants, 50 male and 50 female. The research subjects will be recruited from school districts. School districts that have a special needs program will be contacted and sent informational brochures on the research study; these brochures shall be sent home with autistic children who are between the ages of 6 and 12. Every respondent will be confirmed to be autistic based on the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (Lord et al. 1994). Once the autism is confirmed the potential participants will be evaluated to determine if they have a non-verbal cognitive level greater than 65 (Schaaf Benevides et al. 2012) and have a difficultly with skill generalization and sensory integration.

Once the child is confirmed as a good candidate the assent of each participant and the substitute consent of their parent or legal guardian will be confirmed; by providing this each child and parent would be agreeing to take part in the study for a period of one year and to refrain from any treatment changes during the study. This process would continue until a sample of 100 research participants were successfully recruited with there being 50 males and 50 females.


References

Baric, V.B., Hemmingsson, H., Hellberg, K. et al. J Autism Dev Disord (2016). The Occupational Transition Process to Upper Secondary School, Further Education and/or Work in Sweden: As Described by Young Adults with Asperger Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Doi:10.1007/s10803-016-2986-z

Schaaf, R. C., Benevides, T., Kelly, D., & Mailloux, Z. (2012). Occupational therapy and sensory integration for children with autism: A feasibility, safety, acceptability and fidelity study. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice,. doi:10.1177/1362361311435157

Schaaf, R. C., Benevides, T., Mailloux, Z., Faller, P., Hunt, J., Hooydonk, E. V., . . . Kelly, D. (2013). An Intervention for Sensory Difficulties in Children with Autism: A Randomized Trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(7), 1493-1506. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1983-8

Lord, C., Rutter, M., & Couteur, A. (1994). Autism diagnostic interview-revised: A revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24(5), 659–685.

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