Despite advances in the health and long-term survival of infants born preterm, they continue to face developmental challenges including higher risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and atypical sensory processing patterns.
This secondary analysis aimed to describe sensory profiles and explore effects of combined dietary docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) supplementation on parent-reported sensory processing in toddlers born preterm who were exhibiting ASD symptoms.
90-day randomized, double blinded, placebo-controlled trial.
31 children aged 18-38months who were born at ≤29weeks' gestation.
Mixed effects regression analyses followed intent to treat and explored effects on parent-reported sensory processing measured by the Infant/Toddler Sensory Profile (ITSP).
Baseline ITSP scores reflected atypical sensory processing, with the majority of atypical scores falling below the mean. Sensory processing sections: auditory (above=0%, below=65%), vestibular (above=13%, below=48%), tactile (above=3%, below=35%), oral sensory (above=10%; below=26%), visual (above=10%, below=16%); sensory processing quadrants: low registration (above=3%; below=71%), sensation avoiding (above=3%; below=39%), sensory sensitivity (above=3%; below=35%), and sensation seeking (above=10%; below=19%). Twenty-eight of 31 children randomized had complete outcome data. Although not statistically significant (p=0.13), the magnitude of the effect for reduction in behaviors associated with sensory sensitivity was medium to large (effect size=0.57). No other scales reflected a similar magnitude of effect size (range: 0.10 to 0.32).
The findings provide support for larger randomized trials of omega fatty acid supplementation for children at risk of sensory processing difficulties, especially those born preterm.