Sensory processing disorder in preterm infants during early childhood and relationships to early neurobehavior

Justin Ryckman, Claudia Hilton, Cynthia Rogers, Roberta Pineda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background Preterm infants are exposed to a variety of sensory stimuli that they are not developmentally prepared to handle, which puts them at risk for developing a sensory processing disorder. However, the patterns and predictors of sensory processing disorder and their relationship to early behavior at term equivalent age are poorly understood. Objectives The aims of the study are to: 1) describe the incidence of sensory processing disorder in preterm infants at four to six years of age, 2) define medical and sociodemographic factors that relate to sensory processing disorder, and 3) explore relationships between early neurobehavior at term equivalent age and sensory processing disorder at age four to six years. Methods This study was a prospective longitudinal design. Thirty-two preterm infants born ≤ 30 weeks gestation were enrolled. Infants had standardized neurobehavioral testing at term equivalent age with the NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale. At four to six years of age, participants were assessed with the Sensory Processing Assessment for Young Children (SPA). Results Sixteen children (50%) had at least one abnormal score on the SPA, indicating a sensory processing disorder. There were no identified relationships between medical and sociodemographic factors and sensory processing disorder. More sub-optimal reflexes (p = 0.04) and more signs of stress (p = 0.02) at term equivalent age were related to having a sensory processing disorder in early childhood. Conclusion Preterm infants are at an increased risk for developing a sensory processing disorder. Medical and sociodemographic factors related to sensory processing disorder could not be isolated in this study, however relationships between sensory processing disorder and early neurobehavior were identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-22
Number of pages5
JournalEarly Human Development
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • NICU
  • Neurobehavior
  • Prematurity
  • Sensory processing disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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