Our Research Team

Dr. Sarah Schoen

Sarah A. Schoen, PhD, OTR
Director of Research



Research Interests

Dr. Schoen participates in a program of research studying electrodermal activity and vagal tone in children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) compared to those with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. She is also collaborating with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller on the development of the Sensory Processing (SP) Scales performance measure and parent checklist that evaluates all subtypes of SPD.

SPD Research Summary

Dr. Schoen’s current research focus is on developing reliable and valid scales that can be used to diagnose each of the subtypes of SPD, starting with Sensory Modulation Disorder. Each scale has two components: 1) an Assessment that is an examiner-administered performance evaluation and 2) an Inventory that is a caregiver/self-rated symptom checklist. The purpose of the Sensory Processing Scales is to accurately diagnose SPD for clinical purposes and to identify homogeneous populations for research purposes. Existing measures are not based on the proposed taxonomy of SPD and therefore are inadequate for identifying the subtypes of Sensory Processing Disorder.

The measure of Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR) is most fully developed and has been validated on a sample of 125 participants with and without SOR. Data has been collected on another cohort of 97 individuals with and without SOR. Preliminary findings from both samples support the internal reliability, discriminant validity, and test-retest reliability of the scales. A classification analysis of the sensitivity and specificity of the SPD SOR scales will be conducted to define "at risk" and "disordered" cut-points for SOR that can be used by members of the SPD Scientific Work Group to identify children for research.

A caregiver/self-rated symptom checklist exists for all of the other subtypes of SPD. The checklists are currently being piloted at sites across the country in order to determine which items best discriminate each subtype. Also in the process of development are items for an examiner-administered performance evaluation for Sensory Modulation Disorder: Sensory Under-Responsivity and Sensory Seeking. Test items will be administered to typically developing children as well as children with each disorder so as to determine which items best discriminate between groups.