Graduation Year


Document Type

Capstone Project

Project Type

Mixed Methods

Degree Name

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy


Occupational Therapy

Program Chair

Julia Wilbarger, PhD, OTR/L

Faculty Advisor

Julia Wilbarger, PhD, OTR/L


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to learn how adults cope with their sensory defensiveness (SD) and how physiological responses differ between adults who self-report as high SD versus low SD. Methods: In this continuation study participants (age 18-64; n=23) were categorized as low SD (control group; n=9) or high SD (experimental group; n=14) via their Adolescent Adult Sensory Profile (AASP) scores and Sensory Response Questionnaire (SRQ) scores (Brown, & Dunn, 2002 & Wilbarger, 2009). The last nine participants also completed the Coping Strategies Questionnaire (CSQ). All participants partook in the sensory challenge protocol which examined their electrodermal activity (EDA) responses to auditory, tactile and olfactory stimuli. Discussion: Overall, high SD group had higher EDA responses, but not all were statistically significant. The high SD group had significantly higher EDA (p < 0.1) responses when the nuk brush and lawnmower were administered. The CSQ results found mental preparation/talking through was the most frequently used coping strategy. There was a strong correlation between AASP & CSQ, but not statistically significant. Limitations: With a larger sample size, the results of higher EDA responses between the low and high SD groups could become statistically significant. Difficulty with recruiting participants who self-report as low SD could influence the overall outcome. Conclusion: Adults with high SD have higher physiological responses to sensory stimuli compared to adults with low SD and these adults utilize time consuming coping strategies frequently. Occupational therapists can facilitate a more targeted intervention for adults with SD.