Exploring Sensory Processing among Hearing Impaired and Culturally Deaf Children
It is estimated that 5-10% of the non-clinical paediatric population experience difficulties with sensory processing (SP). In some clinical groups 90-95% of children are estimated to experience difficulties in this area. SP needs correlate with higher rates of mental health difficulties. Deaf and hearing-impaired children experience at least one sensory input differently than the general population. They are also more vulnerable to mental health difficulties than their hearing peers. SP needs among Deaf and hearing-impaired children have never been explored. Aim: This study explored SP and mental wellbeing among 5 to 10-year-old Deaf and hearing-impaired children. Method: A quantitative, within group design (N = 21) was used. Scores from two parent-rated measures routinely used in clinical and research settings were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. These measures were the Sensory Profile Caregiver Questionnaire and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Results: In each area of SP 19 - 76% of the Deaf and hearing-impaired sample demonstrated ‘atypical’ responses. Mean SP scores for the Deaf and hearing-impaired children differed significantly from norms for typically developing children and those with a diagnosis of ASD and a diagnosis of ADHD. Children using hearing aids showed greater difficulties in two SP areas compared to those using cochlear implants. Degree of hearing loss and sign language use were not found to impact SP. SP scores explained a significant proportion of variance in scores related to mental wellbeing. Conclusion: Cautiously it is suggested that Deaf and hearing-impaired children may have a unique SP profile, SP may be influenced by the use of hearing equipment, and there is a link between SP needs and mental wellbeing among these children. More research across the lifespan including research into assessment and interventions is needed.
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