Our Research Priorities

Researchers at the STAR Institute Research Center are currently at work studying the following topics.

  • Multisensory integration in typically developing children. We completed the first study of multisensory integration in children, representing an important and fundamental step toward our goal of understanding multisensory integration in children with Sensory Processing Disorder. Findings from this study were published in 2008 in the journal Brain Research.
  • Multisensory integration in children with SPD. Research related to determining whether the different subtypes of children with SPD show evidence of atypical multisensory integration at the cortical level has been completed. This study of 20 children with the Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR) subtype of SPD confirms that MSI can be reliably measured in children with SOR.
  • Treatment effectiveness. Two studies on treatment effectiveness using OT with a sensory integration approach (OT-SI) have been completed. Their findings were published in the March-April 2007 issue of the American Occupational Therapy Journal.

Planned is a new treatment effectiveness study measuring multisensory integration and electrodermal activity before and after OT-SI and listening therapy. The purpose will be to obtain behavioral data and determine if any variables in these measures will be useful outcome measures of treatment effectiveness. To date we have pre- and post-case study data on 10 subjects.

We are also conducting a retrospective chart review of ~120 clients seen at STAR Institute over the past 3 years. We will be reporting on behavioral changes that result from use of an intensive treatment model.

Gold standard for diagnosis of SPD

Our work on the Sensory Processing Scales (e.g., measuring Sensory Over- and Under-Responsivity and Sensory Seeking/Craving) continues. These scales are performance measures administered directly to the child (not parent-report measures as are currently used). An article was published by the American Journal of Occupational Therapy in August 2008 with research from two separate samples on the SP scales (Sensory Over-Responsive subtest (n > 200). A pilot version of the Sensory Under-Responsive and Sensory Seeking/Craving subscales has been constructed and field tested by half a dozen experienced occupational therapists. Revisions are currently underway based on their feedback. Having a performance measure for SOR, SUR, and SS is critical for collecting a homogeneous sample in research, for clinical precision in identifying children who need services, and for designing appropriate treatment services.

Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) study

The aim of this study was to characterize the sensory functioning of individuals with PWS using behavioral and physiologic measures. Specifically, we used an extensive parent interview and parent-report measures. We also measured autonomic nervous systi function in individuals with PWS in reaction to sensory stimuli using the Sensory Challenge Protocol as was used in our previous studies with children who have SPD, ADHD, autistic spectrum disorders, and Fragile X Disorder. We completed parent interviews, physiologic testing, and parent report measures of sensory behaviors on 12 children with PWS. Preliminary findings were presented at the Foundation for Research in Prader-Willi annual conference 2007. A manuscript is in preparation for submission in 2010.

Numerous additional peer-reviewed articles and other publications of STAR Institute researchers are filed by topic area in Our Library.

STAR Institute Treatment Center

The STAR Institute Treatment Center in Denver, typifies the effective treatment model for clients and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other developmental challenges that have a sensory component. When choosing among the many excellent clinics around the world, studying the research-based, family-centered STAR Institute model may be helpful.

Directed by sensory research pioneer Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR, STAR Institute's team of occupational therapists, psychologists, and early childhood specialists provides intensive, customized treatment with a sensory integration approach (OT-SI). The assessment process is intensive and comprehensive. Intervention strategies are based on clinical research into the origins, symptoms, and developmental and behavioral issues related to the disorder. Family goals and priorities are central to treatment and planning.

Because therapy appears to be more effective when delivered in "bursts" of time, clients are seen at least twice and almost always three times per week for a fixed period of time rather than in the more common treatment model of once a week for an indeterminate period. Using a "burst" model, treatment duration is less than using the weekly model. Respites are built into each course of treatment so the brain has an opportunity to organize what it has recently learned. Following the family-centered model, STAR Institute also builds a significant parent education component into every individualized treatment program.

STAR Institute often invites clients to participate in research conducted by the STAR Institute Research Center, which is co-located in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

STAR Institute's diagnosticians and clinicians are trained to assess and treat neurological and behavioral problems created by:

  • SPD and all its subtypes
  • ADHD
  • Autistic spectrum disorders
  • Speech-language/communication disorders
  • Auditory processing disorders
  • Motor coordination difficulties
  • Learning difficulties
  • Behavior and other developmental concerns

Get more information about the STAR Institute Treatment Center.