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Differences in Oculomotor Function between Children with Sensory Processing Disorder and Typical Development

Walker, Kimberly, OD1*; Redman-Bentley, Donna, PT, PhD2; Remick-Waltman, Kristy, OD1; Armstrong, Dayle C., PT, MS, DPT2

doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001343

SIGNIFICANCE Our study revealed that children with sensory processing disorder (SPD) exhibit deficient saccades and pursuits compared with typically developing (TD) children. Optometrists have a key role in caring for patients with SPD. Optometrists are paramount in identifying, coordinating care for, and treating these children.

PURPOSE Children with SPD exhibit poor neurological processes, which can affect oculomotor performance. The study aims are to investigate differences in oculomotor skills using the Northeastern State University College of Optometry (NSUCO) oculomotor testing in children with SPD as compared with TD children, to explore effects of age and sex of children in each group on oculomotor performance, and to compare our results to test normative values for both TD and SPD groups.

METHODS One hundred fifty children aged 7 to 11 years were recruited from surrounding community. The Short Sensory Profile (SSP) was used to assign the children into two groups. Of the eligible children recruited, 60 were TD (SSP ≥155) and 68 had SPD (SSP ≤141). Children were excluded if they reported blindness, strabismus, deafness, ocular disease, fractures within 6 months, or physical disabilities. Gait, balance, and visual skills of all children were assessed. Visual skill evaluation included select visual efficiency and visual processing testing. The NSUCO test was included as part of the visual efficiency evaluation.

RESULTS Results showed that children with SPD demonstrate decreased oculomotor skills on all tests compared with TD children. For the SPD group, boys scored significantly poorer than did girls in head and body movement with saccades and pursuits. Overall, TD group scores confirm the established test norms.

CONCLUSIONS Because of significant differences in oculomotor function in children with SPD and the increasing number of children with neurosensory disorders, optometrists should consider NSUCO testing on all pediatric patients and particularly in children with SPD.

1Western University of Health Sciences, College of Optometry, Pomona, California

2Western University of Health Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Pomona, California *

Supplemental Digital Content: Appendix A, available at, is the screening intake form utilized by research assistants fielding calls from parents of potential candidates for our study. With this information a determination was made regarding eligibility and potential group assignment. Final group assignment could not be made until the results of the Short Sensory Profile were determined.

Submitted: November 30, 2017

Accepted: October 9, 2018

Funding/Support: None of the authors have reported funding/support.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure: None of the authors have reported a financial conflict of interest.

Study Registration Information: IRB-approved Protocol No. 13/IRB/074; date of approval, August 29, 2013; completion report, August 2016.

Author Contributions and Acknowledgments: Conceptualization: KW, DR-B, KR-W; Data Curation: KW, DR-B; Formal Analysis: DR-B; Funding Acquisition: DR-B; Investigation: KW, DR-B, KR-W, DCA; Methodology: KW; Project Administration: DR-B; Resources: DR-B; Supervision: DR-B; Writing – Original Draft: KW, DR-B, DCA; Writing – Review & Editing: KW, DR-B, KR-W, DCA.

We would like to acknowledge the many optometry, podiatry, and physical therapy students who participated during the data collection phase of our study. We would like to thank our University Research Committee for supporting our study. We would also like to thank Dr. W. C. Maples for supporting this project.

Supplemental Digital Content: Direct URL links are provided within the text.

© 2019 American Academy of Optometry