Questionnaire-based studies suggest atypical sensory perception in over 90% of individuals with autism spectrum conditions (ASC). Sensory questionnaire-based studies in ASC mainly record parental reports of their child’s sensory experience; less is known about sensory reactivity in adults with ASC. Given the DSM-5 criteria for ASC now include sensory reactivity, there is a need for an adult questionnaire investigating basic sensory functioning. We aimed to develop and validate the Sensory Perception Quotient (SPQ), which assesses basic sensory hyper- and hyposensitivity across all five modalities.
A total of 359 adults with (n = 196) and without (n = 163) ASC were asked to fill in the SPQ, the Sensory Over-Responsivity Inventory (SensOR) and the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) online.
Adults with ASC reported more sensory hypersensitivity on the SPQ compared to controls (P < .001). SPQ scores were correlated with AQ scores both across groups (r = .-38) and within the ASC (r = -.18) and control groups (r = -.15). Principal component analyses conducted separately in both groups indicated that one factor comprising 35 items consistently assesses sensory hypersensitivity. The SPQ showed high internal consistency for both the total SPQ (Cronbach’s alpha = .92) and the reduced 35-item version (alpha = .93). The SPQ was significantly correlated with the SensOR across groups (r = -.46) and within the ASC (r = -.49) and control group (r = -.21).
The SPQ shows good internal consistency and concurrent validity and differentiates between adults with and without ASC. Adults with ASC report more sensitivity to sensory stimuli on the SPQ. Finally, greater sensory sensitivity is associated with more autistic traits. The SPQ provides a new tool to measure individual differences on this dimension.