Senior Honors Projects, 2020-current

Effect of vestibular stimulation on verbal and nonverbal communication in a preschooler with autism spectrum disorder

Rebekah Jones


Background: Within the Autism Spectrum Disorder population, sensory processing difficulties are present in essentially all individuals. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines hyper- and hyposensitivity to sensory input within the criterion of restrictive and repetitive behaviors (APA, 2013). One method of therapy for children with issues organizing and modulating incoming sensory information, is sensory integration (SI) therapy. SI therapy is designed to improve sensory perceptual abilities, self- regulation, motor skills, and praxis. With increasingly high numbers of children with ASD receiving both speech therapy and occupational therapy using an SI approach, it is essential for speech language pathologists (SLPs) to be aware of the potential benefits SI therapy can have on communicative behaviors.

Method: This single case research design study examined the effects of sensory input, specifically vestibular stimulation, on nonverbal and verbal communication output in a preschooler with ASD. Vestibular stimulation is defined as a response to changes in body and head position after the introduction of movement or change in gravity, which was swinging. The participant’s verbal and nonverbal behaviors were recorded before, during, and after SI therapy.

Results: Only data from pre and post stimulation periods were examined. The data indicated a post intervention trend for increases in vocalizations, gestures, and self-stimulation, while a decrease was seen in CV/VC syllables, words, and PECS. The degree of effect observed for each behavior was variable.

Conclusions: More research needs to be conducted to examine how SI therapy in conjunction with speech and language therapy affects the communication abilities of children with speech and language disorders.