Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type

Mixed methods


School for Social Work


Sensory disorders in children-Psychological aspects, Child psychotherapy-Outcome assessment, Interpersonal relations in children, Sensory processing, Sensory processing disorder, Invalidating environments, Mental health outcomeslt


This study examined the interpersonal and mental health outcomes of children with sensory processing difficulties or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). SPD occurs when the ways in which we interpret sensory input in over-sensitive or under-sensitive ways. This can create a variety of difficulties, including impairment in the areas of touch, taste/smell, auditory, visual, proprioceptor, vestibular, and activity level/emotional reactivity. Previous studies have focused on the biological underpinnings of SPD, however few have looked at the interpersonal relationships of children with sensory processing difficulties as well as the mental health outcomes as those children mature into adults.


This mixed methods study employed snowball and convenience sampling methods via an online, English language survey. Participants identified which sensory symptoms they experienced as a child, whether or not they have a mental health diagnosis, and assessed their childhood interpersonal relationships with parents/caregivers, teachers, and peers using a modified version of the Invalidating Childhood Environment Scale (ICES).


There were several statistically significant results. Participants with a greater number of sensory processing symptoms were more likely to have a mental health diagnosis (t(166)=3.108, p=.002, two-tailed). A moderate, positive correlation was found between number of sensory processing symptoms and level of invalidating environment (r =.578, p=.000). Participants with a greater number of sensory processing symptoms were more likely to have grown up in an invalidating environment (t(158)=3.668, p=.000, two-tailed). These results indicate a need for more psychoeducation for parents/caregivers and teachers, as well as additional treatment interventions for children with SPD.




v, 103 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 77-85)

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