Research Participation

Spiral Research Center and Sensory Processing Laboratory at OTA The Koomar Center
Increasing Awareness of Sensory Processing in Children and Adults

The Spiral Research Center and Sensory Processing Laboratory is located at OTA The Koomar Center, a name synonymous with excellence in health care, research and human service delivery since 1983. It is sponsored by the Spiral Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting research and education in the area of sensory integration and Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD). The Spiral Research Center and Laboratory is headed by Teresa A. May-Benson, Sc.D., OTR/L, a well-known expert in sensory integration in occupational therapy and known clinically for her work with children and adults with sensory processing problems.

The Spiral Research Center is dedicated to increasing knowledge of sensory processing and its effect on children and adults. We strive to improve awareness of sensory dysfunction and how it impacts daily life. In addition to conducting our own research on Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), we conduct collaborative projects with other universities and organizations such as Brandeis University, Boston University, Thomas Jefferson University, The SPD Foundation and Pediatric Therapy Network. Our research is approved by the Spiral Foundation Institutional Review Board, which ensures the ethical and humane treatment of persons enrolled in research.

Note: There is no obligation to participate in any research study. If you are a client at OTA The Koomar Center, your child’s current or future services will not be affected based on your choice to participate. All information collected at the time of testing is confidential.

Currently we are seeking the following groups of participants:

Children aged 3.0 and 6.0 years either with autism spectrum disorder or typically developing.

Our current studies are:

Predictors of Play Skills in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Typical Peers

This study will examine the relationship between sensory and motor functions and social play in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and typically developing peers. It is anticipated that findings from this study will assist in understanding the relationship between motor performance and play skills.

For this study we are seeking children aged 3.0 to 6.0 years either with an existing diagnosis of ASD or who are typically developing. Participation in this study would involve a child and a parent or legal guardian attending the OTA the Koomar Center clinic for a single 1-1.5 hour visit. Children will complete three short motor assessments and participate in free and structured play with a researcher. Parents will remain in the room with the child and will complete a demographics form, and two parent questionnaires. Results of the assessments and parent reports can be made available to parents.

This study is a multi-center collaboration with Sacred Heart University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Inter-Rater and Test-Retest Reliability of the Sensory Integration Clinical Observations

The Sensory Integration Clinical Observations, routinely used in clinical practice, are a set of 20 structured observations of a child’s postural, vestibular, and motor coordination skills. The primary aim of this study is to determine the test-retest and inter-rater reliability of the measure by administering it on one or two occasions to children aged 4-12 years.

Test-retest reliability examines the variability of scores when a measure is administered on two occasions over a time period when no changes in performance would be expected. Inter-rater reliability examines the variability in scores when two or more observers score the same performance. It is anticipated that findings from this study will assist in establishing the Sensory Integration Clinical Observations as a reliable measure of a child’s postural, vestibular and motor coordination skills.

Children participating in this study will be administered the measure by an occupational therapist trained in the administration and scoring of the observations. Sessions will be videotaped for later scoring by additional therapists. All children will be included in the inter-rater reliability analysis, only those who complete the measure on two occasions will be included in the test-retest reliability analysis.

To ensure a wide range of assessment results children aged 4-12 years, with sensory processing difficulties with or without comorbid high functioning autism as well as their typically developing peers are being recruited for this study. Participation in this study would involve a child and a parent or legal guardian attending the OTA the Koomar Center clinic for one or two single 1-1.5 hour visits. Children will complete the Sensory Integration Clinical Observations with a researcher. In addition to completing informed consent parents will complete a demographics form. Results of the assessment can be made available to parents.

Feasibility and Effectiveness of the Sleep’n Sync Program

The Spiral Foundation has been engaged by Sleep’n Sync, LLC to investigate the effectiveness of one of their commercially available products in helping children to overcome problems with flexibility. Spiral will also be investigating the feasibility of conducting the study to determine the possibility of conducting larger effectiveness studies in the future.

The Sleep’n Sync Flexibility I program is designed to help children overcome functional problems of flexibility, handling frustration or anger, or learning what to do to help prevent themselves being bullied. The program uses audio of a female speaking positive messages (including strategies) over engineered background music which is played to the child while they are sleeping. The principals of hypnotherapy, positive statements and openness of the subconscious mind while sleeping reportedly allow the child to access strategies provided when encountering stressful situations when awake.

Children participating in this study will be aged 7-14 years with known flexibility problems. Participation in the study will involve a 2-week pre-baseline, 8 weeks of listening to the Flexibility program, a 2-week post-baseline and a parent meeting over a 12-14 week period. Parents will be asked to recruit a teacher or other non-relative caregiver to complete several short measure and questionnaires on the child’s behaviors before and during the study. Parents and children will also complete pre and post measures and weekly surveys. To be eligible to participate families must have the ability to activate the program to play through two speakers while the child sleeps.

Families can be provided with the results of all standardized assessments at the conclusion of the study and children and teachers will receive small gift cards as a thank you for participation.

Interested in participating in one of our studies?

Either follow this link to the Spiral Foundation Website or contact Alison Teasdale at research@thespiralfoundation.org or 617-969-4410 x267. We will answer any questions you may have about participating in a study and obtain some preliminary information to determine if you or your child is eligible for any of our studies. If you are eligible then we will describe the appropriate study in detail.

What to expect if you participate

For all studies we will obtain informed consent or parental informed consent from yourself, either in person or via the on-line survey, which will explain the study and what your participation in the study involves. If appropriate, we will also explain the study to your child in appropriate language and attempt to obtain verbal or written assent to participate from them. You and if appropriate your child will then be asked to complete any study forms and/or assessments.