Skip to main content

Self and caregiver report measurement of sensory features in autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review of psychometric properties



Unusual responses to sensory stimuli are considered a diagnostic symptom of autism spectrum disorder with mounting research efforts put towards understanding, characterizing, and treating such symptoms.


This paper examines self and caregiver report tools used to measure sensory features in ASD through a systematic review of the psychometric evidence for their use. A total of 31 empirical papers were reviewed across 20 assessment tools. Substantial differences were identified in the specific sensory features defined across assessment tools. Sensory assessment questionnaires were evaluated against quality psychometric evidence criteria to provide a use recommendation.


Five assessments were identified to be “appropriate with conditions,” while no sensory assessment tools were identified to have sufficient quality psychometric evidence to provide a recommendation of “Appropriate” for measuring sensory features in ASD.


Evidence from this review highlights potentially significant shortcomings among the current methods used to measure sensory features in ASD and suggests the need for more efforts in developing psychometrically sound sensory assessment tools for use in ASD populations.


It is estimated that between 40 and 90% of individuals with ASD have significantly different behavioral responses to sensory experiences compared to typically developing peers [1,2,3,4]. Sensory differences are early emerging [5] and may have long-term effects on later functioning [6], making them ideal targets for early identification and intervention. The human sensory system is a complex biological system that, put simply is responsible for gathering information from the environment and relaying that information to the brain for responding [7]. While the focus of research is widely different across disciplines, researchers generally presume that neural differences in individuals with ASD leads to altered sensation, which results in atypical behavioral responses [8]. Henceforth, to broadly represent atypical responses to or interest in sensory stimuli, these behavioral responses will be referred to as sensory features.

Terms relating to sensory features in ASD vary and are poorly operationalized [9]. Hypo-reactivity, hyper-reactivity, and sensory seeking are widely used but synonymous terms, such as under/over-reactive, poor registration, high/low threshold, sensory sensitivity, under/over-reactivity, sensory craving, sensory interests, and sensory preoccupation are also found in the literature. Furthermore, terms such as sensory perception, sensory integration, multisensory integration, and sensory processing are common but refer to distinct constructs. Sensory perception refers to perceiving or becoming aware of sensory stimuli [10]. Sensory integration denotes how an individual organizes and uses sensory information [11], while multisensory integration refers to assimilation of spatially and temporally concurrent sensory stimuli [12]. Finally, sensory processing is described in the clinical literature (e.g., occupational therapy) as the overlap of becoming aware of stimuli and evoked behavioral responses [9, 13] while addressed in the neuroscience literature as mechanisms of sensation, transduction, and perception. The lack of common terms used to describe sensory features is problematic because differences in nomenclature influence the conceptualization and measurement of the construct.

Caregiver and self-report questionnaires are the most common tools used to measure sensory features in ASD, but there is limited understanding of their psychometric properties [14,15,16]. McConachie [16] evaluated the quality of psychometric evidence for three sensory assessment tools (Sensory Profile, Short Sensory Profile, and Sense and Self-Regulation Checklist) and found inadequate evidence of internal consistency, content, or structural validity, although they did document positive evidence of known group differences for all of the tools. DuBois and Lymer [15] found that caregiver and self-report questionnaires were used in 78.8% of the identified studies in a scoping review of sensory features in ASD. Of the 11 identified questionnaire measures, only seven had any published psychometric evidence. Burns [14] conducted a 20-year review of literature on sensory features in ASD and again found that nearly 70% of the studies utilized caregiver report questionnaires. Although the Burns review summarized the psychometric evidence for the identified tools, they did not appraise based on a quality criterion to anchor or make use recommendations. Taken together, prior evaluative work examining sensory measurement in ASD shows that caregiver and self-report tools are widely used while their psychometric properties are not well understood.

Studies performed with assessments with poor or unknown measurement properties are a waste of resources [17]. With the numerous caregiver and self-report sensory measurement tools currently available, determining their measurement properties is critical. This review aimed to critically appraise, compare, and summarize the quality of the measurement properties of sensory questionnaires for individuals with ASD by (a) identifying the specific sensory features/constructs measured, (b) examining the degree to which published studies provide evidence of different types of reliability and validity for each caregiver and self-report measure using standardized quality criteria, and (c) suggesting next steps related to the measurement of sensory features in ASD.


The following databases were searched for peer-reviewed papers published in English through June 2022: PsychInfo, CINAHL, ERIC, and PubMed. Each database was searched using the terms “autism spectrum disorder” or “autism” or “autistic disorder” and “sensory” and “measurement.” Sensory assessment tools were included in this review if they were found to be used in published literature with an ASD sample. Studies were included if they reported the development of an English caregiver or self-report sensory measurement tool or evaluated one or more measurement properties of an existing tool. Assessment tools examining single modality differences (i.e., vision, hearing, tactile) were excluded. Studies that tested research hypotheses about change or differences between groups but did not specifically evaluate the tool’s measurement properties were excluded. Measurement tools used in studies that included individuals who were being monitored for ASD symptoms even if they had another primary diagnosis (e.g., ASD symptoms in a fragile X population) were included.

The database search resulted in 649 articles that were imported into Rayyan-an online application for systematic reviews. Identified assessment tools were then individually searched for using the assessment tool name resulting in 226 articles. Duplicates were removed, resulting in 525 articles included in the title and abstract review. A total of 71 articles moved into the full-text review. An independent coder reviewed 20% of the articles with 98% overall agreement. The final study sample included 31 articles describing 20 measures. See Table S1 for included measures. Measures that had more than one published version update were evaluated together (e.g., SEQ 1.0, 2.1, 3.0), while measures that were modified for use with different demographic/age groups were evaluated individually (e.g., sensory profile, infant toddler sensory profile, adult and adolescent sensory profile). Three independent reviewers provided consensus agreement for the quality criterion score and use recommendation of each caregiver report measure. See Fig. 1 for the PRISMA flow diagram of included articles [18].

Fig. 1
figure 1

Included articles

The COSMIN guidelines for the systematic review of patient-reported outcome measures were adapted for use in the current article [17]. Articles were coded for general design of the measure (what was being measured and in what population), content validity, structural validity, internal consistency, test–retest reliability, inter-rater reliability, and convergent validity. Quality criteria were adapted from the COSMIN manual and literature on validating scales used for health and social behavior [19]. Ratings of content validity considered if a method was reported to ask patients/caregivers and professionals about the relevance, comprehensiveness, and comprehensibility of the items in the questionnaire. Content validity also considered the number of individuals/caregivers and professionals that the items were tested on. If no methods were described, and/or participant or professional perspectives were not considered, the content validity was rated as unknown due to methodology. Further quality criterion details are listed in Table 1.

Table 1 Quality criterion for measurement properties adapted from COSMIN manual for systematic reviews of PROMS (Prinsen et al., [17])

Results of measurement properties evaluated within an article were rated against the quality criteria, and a grade was applied (+ / − /?). Results were pooled if two or more studies evaluated the same measurement property for a selected instrument. A rating of “ + ” indicated that the quality criterion was sufficiently met. Psychometric evidence that did not meet the quality criterion cut-off was marked with a “ − .” A rating of “ + / − ” indicated that quality criterion was met for some, but not all, subscales of the measurement tool. A rating of “?” was given if the grade was indeterminate owing to low methodological quality, not enough information (e.g., sample did not include autistic individuals), or mixed results across studies.

The psychometric evidence from included articles was synthesized to provide a general use recommendation. See Table 2 for recommendation criteria definitions adapted from Lecavalier et al. [20]. Assessment tools were classified as follows: (a) appropriate, (b) appropriate with conditions, (c) unsupported/insufficient, or (d) inappropriate. A recommendation of “appropriate” indicates quality criteria had been met for all relevant indices within the current review. A rating of “appropriate with conditions” indicates that sufficient psychometric quality criteria evidence existed in at least three indices. “Unsupported/insufficient” indicates that psychometric quality evidence is inconsistent, unavailable, or limited in the ASD population. The rating of “inappropriate” reflects psychometric criterion has been evaluated and is contrary to meeting the quality criterion in one or more indices of reliability or validity.

Table 2 Criteria for recommended use adapted from Lecavalier et al. [20]


A total of 31 articles across 20 sensory assessment tools were included in this systematic review. Studies were published from 1994 to 2022. Across the 20 assessment tools identified, 12 were caregiver report measures (Sensory Profile-SP, Short Sensory Profile-SSP, Sensory Sensitivity Questionnaire-Revised-SSQ-R, Infant Toddler Sensory Profile-ITSP, Sensory Behavior Schedule-SBS, Sensory Experiences Questionnaire-SEQ, Sensory Processing Measure-SPM, Sense and Self Regulation Checklist-SSC, Sensory Processing Self-Regulation Checklist-English-SPSRC, Sensory Assessment for Neurodevelopmental Disorders-SAND, Sensory Behavior Questionnaire-SBQ, Sensory Processing Scales Inventory-SP-Scales Inventory) [21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32]. Five were self-report measures (Adult and Adolescent Sensory Profile-AASP, Glasgow Sensory Questionnaire-GSQ, Sensory Processing Quotient-SPQ, Sensory Reactivity in Autism Spectrum-SR-AS, Sensory Sensitivities Scales-SeSS) [33,34,35,36,37]. Additionally, three measures provided a choice between caregiver report or self-report (Sensory Sensitivity Questionnaire-SSQ, Sensory Over Responsivity Inventory-SensOR, Brain Body Center Sensory Scale-BBCSS) [38,39,40]. Three assessments combined proxy report with an observational component (SAND, SensOR, and SP Scales Inventory as part of the SP3D) [24, 32, 39]. For this review, the observational components were not included in the psychometric evaluation.

Constructs measured

Table S1 describes each assessment identified and the subscales and modalities targeted. Original terminology was retained to describe the scales and subscales of each assessment. For comparability, broad construct terms were utilized and based on the published descriptions and language used in the assessment. Four broad groups of sensory constructs were identified as sensory processing, sensory reactivity, unusual sensory behavior, and basic sensory detection. Seven assessment tools focused on measuring sensory processing (SP, SSP, AASP, ITSP, SPM, SPSRC-English, SP-Scales Inventory) [21, 22, 25, 27, 30, 32, 37]. Seven focused on sensory reactivity based on general awareness of and reaction to sensory stimuli (SSQ-R, SEQ, SSQ, GSQ, SR-AS, SAND, BBCSS) [24, 28, 31, 34, 36, 38, 40]. Four focused on unusual sensory behaviors in response to sensory stimuli (SBS, SSC the SBQ, SensOR) [23, 26, 29, 39]. Additionally two assessment tools were designed to measure an individual’s basic sensory detection and discrimination abilities (SPQ, SeSS) [33, 35].

Psychometric quality

Table S2 displays the summary of the psychometric evidence quality for each of the sensory measures. No assessment tool was found to have evidence across all indices of reliability and validity used for this review. Therefore, no tool met the criteria to be recommended as “appropriate” for measuring sensory features in individuals with ASD. Five assessment tools were classified as “appropriate with conditions” (SEQ, SAND, SPQ, BBCSS, SR-AS) [24, 28, 34, 35, 40,41,42,43]. Six assessments were identified as “inappropriate,” indicating evidence contrary to the quality criteria in one or more indices of reliability or validity (SSP, SSQ-R, AASP, SBS, SSQ, SSC) [26, 29, 31, 37, 38, 44, 45]. Nine assessment tools were rated as “unsupported/insufficient,” indicating limited or inconsistent data on reliability and validity with the ASD population (SP, ITSP, SPM, SensOR, GSQ, SPSRC-English, SBQ, SeSS, SP-Scales Inventory) [21, 23, 30, 32, 33, 36, 39, 46,47,48,49,50,51,52,53,54,55,56,57].


Appropriate measurement is critical for advancing our understanding of sensory features in ASD. The purpose of this review was to evaluate how sensory features in ASD are currently being measured in caregiver and self report questionnaires and evaluate the psychometric evidence of the tools. Of the 20 sensory measures identified, none met all quality criteria for use in measuring sensory features in ASD, and only five were rated as “appropriate with conditions.” The Sensory Experiences Questionnaire is recommended for measuring sensory reactivity features in children with ASD between the ages of 2–12 years. This recommendation is supported by quality criterion evidence for internal consistency, test–retest reliability, and a CFA demonstrating satisfactory structural validity [28, 42, 43]. The psychometric properties were assessed with sufficient sample sizes including individuals with ASD. The SR-AS is recommended for measuring sensory reactivity features of ASD in autistic adults without cognitive impairments based on quality criterion in internal consistency, content validity, and structural validity [34]. The SAND caregiver interview, although deemed “appropriate with conditions” for measuring sensory reactivity in children warrants more research to validate the factor structure and its relationship with the SAND observational counterpart [24]. The BBCSS is deemed “appropriate with conditions” as a tool for measuring sensory reactivity features from childhood into adulthood (5–58 years old), yet further research with an ASD-specific sample would strengthen this recommendation [40]. The Sensory Processing Quotient is recommended as “appropriate with conditions” for measuring basic sensory detection in autistic adults [35].

Evidence from this review highlights significant shortcomings of current methods used to measure sensory features in ASD. While Burns et al. [14] pointed out the lack of psychometric evidence of sensory assessment tools generally, the present review adds to our understanding by identifying the specific gaps in psychometric evidence for these tools [19]. Content validity is arguably the most critical measurement property: items that are not relevant, comprehensive, and clear do not contribute meaningful information. The current results indicate that most assessments (18 out of 20) used to measure sensory features in ASD do not meet quality criterion evidence for content validity based on COSMIN recommendations [17, 19]. Only two assessments included in the review (SR-AS, SPQ) described the process used to ask autistic adults or caregivers and professionals about the relevance, comprehensiveness and comprehensibility of items [34, 35]. The SensOR and ITSP [30, 39] described a process for evaluating content validity but did not test the items with an ASD population. In other studies content validity was assumed (e.g., Talay-Ongan et al., [31]) or only based on literature reviews without an evaluation of the items used in the assessment (e.g., Harrison & Hare, [29]; Minshew et al., [38]; Robertson & Simmons, [36]).

The results of the current review show substantial variability across dimensions of sensory being sampled for in the items of sensory questionnaires. Overall, the primary goal of behavioral assessments is to obtain data from functional items that meaningfully underscore a single or multidimensional domain and contribute significantly to the construct. Structural validity refers to the degree to which an assessment reflects the dimensionality of focal constructs and how the items are interrelated [17]. Only four of the included measures had positive published evidence of structural validity (SEQ, SPQ, BBCSS, SR-AS) [34, 35, 40, 43]. For this discussion, construct terms were made consistent for comparability while original terminology was retained in Table S1. For example, the authors of the SEQ, confirmed its primary factor structure, with four sensory response patterns (hypo-reactivity, hyper-reactivity, sensory seeking, enhanced perception) and alternative structures broken down by modality [43]. In contrast, items from the BBCSS were found to load onto eight unidimensional subscales, including “auditory threat hypersensitivity,” “auditory hyposensitivity to voices,” “visual hypersensitivity,” “tactile hypersensitivity,” “affiliative touch aversion,” “selective eating,” “ingestion problems,” and “digestive problems” [40]. The SR-AS assessment loaded onto four factors including high awareness/hyper-reactivity, low awareness/hypo-reactivity, sensory interest, and sensory/ motor [34]. Yet the SPQ was evaluated with a unidimensional structure [35]. The SEQ and SR-AS sensory dimensions correspond with DSM-5 symptomology of ASD to include hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input and unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment. However, as Kolacz et al. [40] point out, the presence of both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity in ASD may suggest that atypical reactivity to sensory stimulation may be contextual rather than uniformly characterized by a higher/lower sensitivity of the sensory system receptors and/or perceptual systems. Additionally, Thye et al. [58] linked specific sensory modality responses (visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory/gustatory) vs. response patterns (hypo or hyper) with social deficit symptoms of ASD. Taken together, these results raise the question of whether the validity of sensory features research in ASD rests on arbitrary decisions regarding labels used to organize concepts [48]. In other words, we may not yet have determined how to definitively catalog and discriminate the relevant sensory features.

Furthermore, evidence of structural validity is a prerequisite for interpretations of internal consistency [19]. However, five measures included in the review were evaluated for internal consistency without consideration for structural validity (SSQ-R, SSC, SPSRC, SAND, SBQ) [23,24,25,26, 31]. Existing and future sensory measures in ASD must prioritize structural validity. Many sensory questionnaires have been criticized for being too limited across modalities and broad in scope [2, 39, 45, 59]. For example, the SPM [27] broadly contains scales such as Social Participation, Body Awareness, Balance and Motion, and Planning and Ideas. Conversely, the SBS [29] includes 17 items across five modalities leaving single items representing full domains such as auditory responding captured by “person makes unusual vocalizations.” Likewise, the SSQ [38] used 13 items to capture information across four domains of sensory features. Consequently, without clear, consistent constructs and agreement on their meaning and measurement, the field is limited in our scientific understanding and ability to improve therapeutic outcomes related to sensory features in ASD.

While no “gold standard” sensory measure exists, many researchers examined convergent validity via correlations with scores collected from a source assumed to measure the same “construct,” most commonly the SP or SSP. According to Prinsen et al. [17] when comparing convergent validity, one must consider the clarity of the construct measured by the comparator instrument and determine if the comparator instrument itself has “sufficient” psychometric properties. This review identified eight measures that were assessed in comparison to the different versions of the SP including the SSP, ITSP, and AASP (See Fig. 2). Overall, drawing inferences about convergent validity evidence for these assessment tools is strongly cautioned due to the weak psychometric evidence of the comparator tool for use in an ASD population [60].

Fig. 2
figure 2

Pathways of convergent validity estimates

Future directions

The call for advancements in measuring sensory features is not new [1, 14, 15, 61, 62]. However, evidence from the current review suggests the need to create more orthogonal assessment strategies with clearer operationalizations of the specific constructs being measured. The research domain criteria (RDoC) proposed by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) is a research framework that may be useful in advancing this agenda for sensory features in ASD [63]. RDoC is a framework cutting across six major domains of human functioning along the continuum of normal to abnormal based on the intersection of information from genetics, biology, and behavior. Researchers should consider more fine-grained measurement of sensory features through the lens of the RDoC framework in which behavioral elements, processes, mechanisms, and responses are considered. Uljarević et al. [64] argued that classifying the fundamental aspects of sensory features in ASD and identifying their genetic, neural, and behavioral correlations across individuals is a necessary prerequisite to identifying meaningful treatment targets. To achieve this, they urged for research into sources of variability in sensory features between individuals through a three-pronged approach that (a) considers sensory features as dimensional constructs, (b) examines individual differences, and (c) moves to comprehensive, multidimensional, and multimodal approaches to the measurement of sensory features. However, any such measures require rigorous development and validation.

Although research consistently demonstrates that individuals with ASD score differently than typically developing individuals on evaluations of sensory features [1, 4, 65,66,67,68], it is time to hone in on measuring sensory features more comprehensively and clearly. One solution may be to bring together experts across disciplines (psychology, occupational therapy, neuroscience) to come to consensus around the dimensions of sensory features as it pertains to ASD. Overall, we must classify the fundamental bounds of sensory features as a construct related to ASD and test theoretical models to provide a better outline for the construct dimensions. The field continues to see therapies that claim to treat sensory symptoms central to ASD without discretely measuring the symptom or monitoring change in the behavior [41, 42, 61]. Valid and reliable sensory measures are critical to ensuring therapeutic outcomes map onto the claims of the intervention.

Finally, we believe that to advance measurement of sensory features as a behavioral outcome in treatment trials, assessments need to be evaluated for sensitivity to change. Responsiveness refers to a measure's ability to detect change over time in the construct in question, moreover validity in a change of score (e.g., after treatment) [17]. Testing an instrument’s responsiveness can be completed with comparisons to a “gold standard” score over time via correlations, an assessment of sensitivity and specificity, or hypothesis testing in conjunction with a comparison instrument. However, none of the assessments examined in this review reported this measurement property. It is important to the future of intervention work that measurement instruments be responsive to meaningful changes in the sensory features.


While caregiver and self report questionnaires are the most commonly used assessments in studies of sensory features in ASD [14], other types of assessments should also be evaluated, such as observational and performance-based measures. For example, the SensOR and its modified questionnaire component the SP-Scales Inventory have been updated into the SP3D which includes a performance based assessment counterpart [32, 39, 69]. This is also the case for the SAND [24]. Psychometric properties of such direct assessments must be specifically evaluated and not assumed. It is important to note that this review was limited to peer-reviewed evidence of internal consistency, test-retest reliability, content validity, structural validity, and convergent validity. However, other measurement properties, such as those related to hypothesis testing, could provide additional evidence towards construct validity. Known group differences of sensory features in individuals with ASD compared to the general population is one such area that has been repeatedly reported. Additionally, while recommendation scores in the current review treat each psychometric criteria domain equally, we emphasize the importance of content validity and structural validity in interpreting the psychometric evidence from other reliabilability and validity evaluations.


Sensory features are a prominent symptom identified in individuals with ASD. Caregiver and self-report questionnaires have long served as the primay mode for measuring sensory features. Employing the COSMIN guidelines for rigorous evaluation of psychometric quality, we failed to identify any current measure that met sufficient quality criterion across all included domains of psychometric evidence. Overall, our results suggest that measurement of sensory features in ASD relies largely on questionnaires not validated with an ASD sample. However, the SEQ, SAND, SPQ, BBCSS, and the SR-AS showed sufficient quality criterion across at least three domains of psychometric evidence. The SEQ holds promise as a caregiver report sensory measure for children with ASD. The SR-AS is recommended as a measure with potential utility for measuring sensory features via self-report in adults and the SPQ for measuring basic sensory detection. Yet the lack of consensus around terminology and components relevant to sensory functioning are barriers to advancing the field. For this reason, we recommend a return to the basics in best practices for developing and validating scales.

Availability of data and materials

Data generated for this article are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.



Autism spectrum disorder


Research domain criteria


COnsensus-based Standards for the selection of health Measurement Instruments


Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses


Area under the curve


Confirmatory factor analysis


Comparative fit index


Exploratory factor analysis


Intraclass correlation coefficient


Limits of agreement


Root–mean–square error of approximation


Smallest detectable change


Tucker–Lewis fit index


  1. Ben-Sasson A, Gal E, Fluss R, Katz-Zetler N, Cermak SA. Update of a meta-analysis of sensory symptoms in asd: a new decade of research. J Autism Dev Disord. 2019;49(12):4974–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Green D, Chandler S, Charman T, Simonoff E, Baird G. Brief report: DSM-5 sensory behaviours in children with and without an autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2016;46(11):3597–606.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Leekam S, Tandos J, McConachie H, Meins E, Parkinson K, Wright C, et al. Repetitive behaviours in typically developing 2-year-olds. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2007;48(11):1131–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Tomchek SD, Dunn W. Sensory processing in children with and without autism: a comparative study using the Short Sensory Profile. Spec Issue Conceptualizing Identifying Sens Process Issues Sens Integr Treat. 2007;61(2):190–200.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Wolff JJ, Dimian AF, Botteron KN, Dager SR, Elison JT, Estes AM, et al. A longitudinal study of parent-reported sensory responsiveness in toddlers at-risk for autism. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2019;60(3):314–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Baranek GT, Woynaroski TG, Nowell S, Turner-Brown L, DuBay M, Crais ER, et al. Cascading effects of attention disengagement and sensory seeking on social symptoms in a community sample of infants at-risk for a future diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2018;29:30–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Marco EJ, Hinkley LBN, Hill SS, Nagarajan SS. Sensory processing in autism: a review of neurophysiologic findings. Pediatr Res. 2011;1(69):48R-54R.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Cascio CJ, Woynaroski T, Baranek GT, Wallace MT. Toward an interdisciplinary approach to understanding sensory function in autism spectrum disorder. Autism Res. 2016;9(9):920–5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Schaaf R, Lane A. Toward a best-practice protocol for assessment of sensory features in ASD. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015;45(5):1380–95.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Robertson CE, Baron-Cohen S. Sensory perception in autism. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2017;18(11):671–84.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Iarocci G, McDonald J. Sensory integration and the perceptual experience of persons with autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 2006;36(1):77–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Bao VA, Doobay V, Mottron L, Collignon O, Bertone A. Multisensory integration of low-level information in autism spectrum disorder: measuring susceptibility to the flash-beep illusion. J Autism Dev Disord. 2017;47(8):2535–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Tomchek S, Dean E, Dunn W, Little L. Sensory processing relationships to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) risk in toddlers diagnosed with ASD. Am J Occup Ther. 2016;2(70):1–1.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Burns CO, Dixon DR, Novack M, Granpeesheh D. A systematic review of assessments for sensory processing abnormalities in autism spectrum disorder. Rev J Autism Dev Disord. 2017;4(3):209–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. DuBois D, Lymer E, Gibson BE, Desarkar P, Nalder E. Assessing sensory processing dysfunction in adults and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: a scoping review. Brain Sci. 2017;7(8):108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. McConachie H, Parr JR, Glod M, Hanratty J, Livingstone N, Oono IP, et al. Systematic review of tools to measure outcomes for young children with autism spectrum disorder. Health Technol Assess. 2015;19(42):1–506.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Prinsen CAC, Mokkink LB, Bouter LM, Alonso J, Patrick DL, de Vet HCW, et al. COSMIN guideline for systematic reviews of patient-reported outcome measures. Qual Life Res. 2018;27(5):1147–57.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. J Clin Epidemiol. 2009;62(10):1006–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Boateng GO, Neilands TB, Frongillo EA, Melgar-Quiñonez HR, Young SL. Best practices for developing and validating scales for health, social, and behavioral research: a primer. Front Public Health. 2018;6. Available from: cited 2020 Oct 19

  20. Lecavalier L, Wood JJ, Halladay AK, Jones NE, Aman MG, Cook EH, Handen BL, King BH, Pearson DA, Hallett V, Sullivan KA. Measuring anxiety as a treatment endpoint in youth with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders. 2014;44(5):1128-43.

  21. Dunn W. Performance of typical children on the sensory profile: an item analysis. Am J Occup Ther. 1994;48(11):967–74.

  22. McIntosh D, Miller L, Shyu V. Development and validation of the short sensory profile (SSP). In: Dunn W, editor. The Sensory Profile: Examiner’s Manual. 1999. p. 59–73.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Neil L, Green D, Pellicano E. The psychometric properties of a new measure of sensory behaviors in autistic children. J Autism Dev Disord. 2017;47(4):1261–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Siper PM, Kolevzon A, Wang AT, Buxbaum JD, Tavassoli T. A clinician-administered observation and corresponding caregiver interview capturing DSM-5 sensory reactivity symptoms in children with ASD. Autism Res Off J Int Soc Autism Res. 2017;10(6):1133–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Lai CYY, Chiu S. Sensory processing and self-regulation checklist. Hong Kong: Heep Hong Society; 2013.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Silva LMT, Schalock M. Sense and self-regulation checklist, a measure of comorbid autism symptoms: initial psychometric evidence. Am J Occup Ther. 2012;66(2):177–86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Parham LD, Ecker C. Sensory processing measure (SPM). In: Western Psychological Services. 2007.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Baranek GT, David FJ, Poe MD, Stone WL, Watson LR. Sensory experiences questionnaire: discriminating sensory features in young children with autism, developmental delays, and typical development. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2006;47(6):591–601.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Harrison J, Hare DJ. Brief report: assessment of sensory abnormalities in people with autistic spectrum disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. 2004;34(6):727–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Daniels DB, Dunn WW. Development of the infant-toddler sensory profile. Occup Ther J Res. 2000;20(1_suppl):86S-90S.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Talay-Ongan A, Wood K. Unusual sensory sensitivities in autism: a possible crossroads. Int J Disabil Dev Educ. 2000;47(2):201–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Schoen SA, Miller LJ, Sullivan J. The development and psychometric properties of the sensory processing scale inventory: a report measure of sensory modulation. J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2017;42(1):12–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Aykan S, Vatansever G, Doğanay-Erdoğan B, Kalaycıoğlu C. Development of Sensory Sensitivity Scales (SeSS): reliability and validity analyses. Res Dev Disabil. 2020;1(100):103612.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Elwin M, Schröder A, Ek L, Kjellin L. Development and pilot validation of a sensory reactivity scale for adults with high functioning autism spectrum conditions: sensory reactivity in autism spectrum (SR-AS). Nord J Psychiatry. 2016;70(2):103–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Tavassoli T, Hoekstra RA, Baron-Cohen S. The Sensory Perception Quotient (SPQ): development and validation of a new sensory questionnaire for adults with and without autism. Mol Autism. 2014;5(1):29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Robertson AE, Simmons DR. The relationship between sensory sensitivity and autistic traits in the general population. J Autism Dev Disord. 2013;43(4):775–84.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Brown C, Dunn W. Adult/adolescent sensory profile: user’s manual. San Antonio: Psychological Corporation; 2002.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Minshew NJ, Hobson JA. Sensory sensitivities and performance on sensory perceptual tasks in high-functioning individuals with autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 2008;38(8):1485–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Schoen SA, Miller LJ, Green KE. Pilot study of the sensory over-responsivity scales: assessment and inventory. Am J Occup Ther. 2008;62(4):393–406.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Kolacz J, Raspa M, Heilman KJ, Porges SW. Evaluating sensory processing in fragile X syndrome: psychometric analysis of the Brain Body Center Sensory Scales (BBCSS). J Autism Dev Disord. 2018;48(6):2187–202.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Lee H, Chen YJ, Sideris J, Watson LR, Crais ER, Baranek GT. Sensory features of young children from a large community sample: latent factor structures of the sensory experiences questionnaire (Version 2.1, Short Form). Am J Occup Ther. 2022;76(3):7603205140.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Little LM, Freuler AC, Houser MB, Guckian L, Carbine K, David FJ, et al. Psychometric validation of the sensory experiences questionnaire. Am J Occup Ther. 2011;65(2):207–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Ausderau K, Sideris J, Furlong M, Little LM, Bulluck J, Baranek GT. National survey of sensory features in children with ASD: factor structure of the sensory experience questionnaire (3.0). J Autism Dev Disord. 2014;44(4):915–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Schulz SE, Stevenson RA. Convergent validity of behavioural and subjective sensitivity in relation to autistic traits. J Autism Dev Disord. 2022;52(2):758–70.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  45. Williams ZJ, Failla MD, Gotham KO, Woynaroski TG, Cascio C. Psychometric evaluation of the short sensory profile in youth with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2018;48(12):4231–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Brown T, Swayn E, Lyons C, Taylor J. Convergent validity between two parent report sensory processing scales: the child sensory profile 2-caregiver questionnaire and the sensory processing measure-home form. Ann Int Occup Ther. 2021;4(4):e198-209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Brown T, Morrison IC, Stagnitti K. The reliability of two sensory processing scales used with school-age children: comparing the response consistency of mothers, fathers, and classroom teachers rating the same child. J Occup Ther Sch Early Interv. 2010;3(4):331–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Brown T, Morrison IC, Stagnitti K. The convergent validity of two sensory processing scales used with school - age children: comparing the sensory profile and the sensory processing measure. N Z J Occup Ther. 2010;57(2):56–65.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Dunn W, Daniels DB. Initial development of the infant/toddler sensory profile. J Early Interv. 2002;25(1):27–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Brown C, Tollefson N, Dunn W, Cromwell R, Filion D. The adult sensory profile: measuring patterns of sensory processing. Am J Occup Ther. 2001;55(1):75–82.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  51. Kuiper MWM, Verhoeven EWM, Geurts HM. The Dutch Glasgow Sensory Questionnaire: psychometric properties of an autism-specific sensory sensitivity measure. Autism Int J Res Pract. 2019;23(4):922–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Gomez INB, Calsa AP, Esguerra JT, Penetrante PJH, Porlucas K, Santos ME, et al. Psychometric properties of the sensory processing and self-regulation checklist: english version. Occup Ther Int. 2021;2021:e6658786.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Horder J, Wilson CE, Mendez MA, Murphy DG. Autistic traits and abnormal sensory experiences in adults. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014;44(6):1461–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Woodard CR, Goodwin MS, Zelazo PR, Aube D, Scrimgeour M, Ostholthoff T, et al. A comparison of autonomic, behavioral, and parent-report measures of sensory sensitivity in young children with autism. Res Autism Spectr Disord. 2012;6(3):1234–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Dugas C, Simard MN, Fombonne E, Couture M. Comparison of two tools to assess sensory features in children with autism spectrum disorder. Am J Occup Ther. 2018;72(1):1–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Ohl A, Butler C, Carney C, Jarmel E, Palmieri M, Pottheiser D, et al. Test–retest reliability of the sensory profile caregiver questionnaire. Am J Occup Ther. 2012;66(4):483–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Dunn W, Brown C. Factor analysis on the sensory profile from a national sample of children without disabilities. Am J Occup Ther. 1997;51(7):490–5.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  58. Thye MD, Bednarz HM, Herringshaw AJ, Sartin EB, Kana RK. The impact of atypical sensory processing on social impairments in autism spectrum disorder. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2018;1(29):151–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Ausderau KK, Furlong M, Sideris J, Bulluck J, Little LM, Watson LR, et al. Sensory subtypes in children with autism spectrum disorder: latent profile transition analysis using a national survey of sensory features. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2014;55(8):935–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Licciardi L, Brown T. An overview & critical review of the sensory profile – second edition. Scand J Occup Ther. 2021;0(0):1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Case-Smith J, Weaver LL, Fristad MA. A systematic review of sensory processing interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders. Autism. 2015;19(2):133–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Rogers SJ, Ozonoff S. Annotation: what do we know about sensory dysfunction in autism? A critical review of the empirical evidence. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2005;46(12):1255–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Cuthbert BN, Insel TR. Toward the future of psychiatric diagnosis: the seven pillars of RDoC. BMC Med. 2013;11(1):126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Uljarević M, Baranek G, Vivanti G, Hedley D, Hudry K, Lane A. Heterogeneity of sensory features in autism spectrum disorder: Challenges and perspectives for future research. Autism Research. 2017;10(5):703-10.

  65. Ben-Sasson A, Hen L, Fluss R, Cermak SA, Engel-Yeger B, Gal E. A meta-analysis of sensory modulation symptoms in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. 2009;39(1):1–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Kern JK, Trivedi MH, Garver CR, Grannemann BD, Andrews AA, Savla JS, et al. The pattern of sensory processing abnormalities in autism. Autism Int J Res Pract. 2006;10(5):480–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Ermer J, Dunn W. The sensory profile: a discriminant analysis of children with and without disabilities. Am J Occup Ther. 1998;52(Developmental Disorders&Autism [3250]):283–90.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  68. Weiland RF, Polderman TJ, Hoekstra RA, Smit DJ, Begeer S. The Dutch Sensory Perception Quotient-Short in adults with and without autism. Autism. 2020;24(8):2071–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Mulligan S, Schoen S, Miller L, Valdez A, Magalhaes D. The sensory processing 3-dimensions scale: initial studies of reliability and item analyses. Open J Occup Ther. 2019 Jan 15;7(1). Available from:

Download references


Thank you to the University of Minnesota’s College of Education & Human Development Research Methodology Consulting Center (RMCC) and Rik Lamm for quality criteria guidance as well as Amy Regalman for consultation in systematic review methodology.


This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health under award number R01-MH116961 and R01-HD44763. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



JG, JW, and FS participated in the conceptualization of this article. JG, EW, BB, and JW participated in the formal analysis of literature. All authors provided writing review and edits. The authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jaclyn Gunderson.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

Additional file 1: Table S1.

Summary of Measures Used to Assess Sensory Features in Individuals with ASD. Table (larger than 1 page) including assessment tool names, description, target population, administration type.

Additional file 2: Table S2.

Summary of Psychometric Quality of Self and Caregiver-Report Sensory Measures Used in ASD. Table (landscape layout) including caregiver report assessment tool names, and quality criterion score for psychometric properties including internal consistency, test-rerest reliability, inter-rater reliability, content validity, structural validity, and convergent validity, and use recommendation.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gunderson, J., Worthley, E., Byiers, B. et al. Self and caregiver report measurement of sensory features in autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review of psychometric properties. J Neurodevelop Disord 15, 5 (2023).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Sensory
  • Assessment
  • Systematic review
  • Sensory responsivity