Sensory integration v ABA — The Bump
Special Needs

Sensory integration v ABA


My three year old tends to hyperactivity, with a need to be refocused a tad more than seems typical.  He doesn't always listen, and will persist in doing things he isn't supposed to do to get a reaction (he will  say, look at me, and then laugh). He does have a neurological conditions that increase his risk for ADHD (hypoplasia of the corpus callosum), but has not been diagnosed with that (too young).

Some prior therapists had suspected s sensory issue, but evals haven't been conclusive.  I am planning to have his evaluated at a center with OTs that specialize in SI, but am wondering whether I should try ABA.

I have heard the approaches are antithetical to each other, and am seeking information about why.


Pulling her hair out.



Re: Sensory integration v ABA

  • I can totally sympathize. My son has SPD and I had asked about ABA.  I was told that the adaptive behavior therapies basically can be counterproductive.  That until you get the sensory issue addressed it is pointless to do the ABA.  I wanted to do it all and get my son's "issues" addressed, but now I know that it is "best" to do things in a certain order. I would definately get an OT eval with someone who is familiar with SPD and once you have that established, the OT can advise you as to when is best to start ABA.  Hope this helps.  It does get better, I have been there and still am to a point although my son graduated out of OT last week. 
  • The EI OT told us our son needed SIT to be "in tune to receive his other therapies," including ABA. She couldn't provide a single study supporting this claim when we asked her to do so.

    ABA is on the proven therapies list from the National Autism Center's standards project (SIT falls into the "unestablished" category). I've seen many anecdotes supporting SIT, but I'm not convinced to spend time and money on it over ABA.

    *Edited to add that my son has ASD. Auntie may be able to speak to SIT for kiddos off the spectrum. 
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  • I really think you need the diagnosis in order to come up with the most effective therapy, so if you think there are sensory issues, an OT is the go-to person.  My DD was diagnosed with SPD, and we've been doing weekly OT since August, and my DD is making huge strides in balance, bilateral coordination, motor planning, and fine motor skills.  She's more independent and her self-care skills have improved tremendously.  We also have a friend whose older daughter was diagnosed with ASD a year ago who has a lot of sensory issues, and they feel like the OT is helping a ton.


  • We did a little over a year of OT with my DS from right around 2-3 (he has sensory issues with no autism). He had serious issues with attention--he couldn't even attend to something for thirty seconds. He would just wander around aimlessly with no purpose and little functional play. He "graduated" from OT at three with no delays (besides an artic delay so unrelated). His preschool teachers constantly note his attention/listening skills are amazing for a child his age--he's even better at attending to things than some of his 4 year old peers.

    Aba is the go-to approach for autism--but if the issues are sensory driven OT is going to be your best bet.

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