The effects of multisensory therapy on behaviour of adult clients with developmental disabilities-A systematic review

Sally Wai chi Chan*, David Thompson, Janita P.C. Chau, Wilson W.S. Tam, Ivy W.S. Chiu, Susanne H.S. Lo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is a growing use of multisensory therapy in enhancing sense of well-being and reducing challenging or stereotypic self-stimulating behaviour in people with a developmental disability. Objectives: This review aimed to present the best available evidence on the effect of multisensory therapy in adult clients with developmental disabilities on the frequency of challenging behavior, stereotypic self-stimulating behavior, and positive behaviour; and changes of physiological measures. Design: Systematic review. Data sources: A search of electronic databases of published research studies (January 1985-December 2008) was conducted, using appropriate search terms. The reference lists and bibliographies of retrieved articles were reviewed to identify research not located through other search strategies. Review methods: Studies that investigated the effects of multisensory environment in relation to outcomes were examined. Data were extracted independently by two reviewers. Methodological quality was also assessed by two reviewers against key quality criteria. Findings: One hundred and thirty-two studies were identified from database search of which 17 met the inclusion criteria for review. The evidence supports that participants' had displayed more positive behvaiour after multisensory therapy sessions. There is no strong evidence supporting that multisensory therapy could help in reducing challenging behaviour or stereotypic self-stimulating behaviour. Conclusions: This systematic review demonstrates a beneficial effect of multisensory therapy in promoting participants' positive emotions. While the reviewers acknowledge the difficulty in carrying out randomized controlled trial in people with developmental disabilities and challenging behavior, the lack of trial-derived evidence makes it difficult to arrive at a conclusion of the effectiveness of the multisensory therapy. Future study should use well-designed randomised controlled trials to evaluate the short and long term effectiveness of multisensory therapy. There is also a need for qualitative studies which allow the clients to tell the stories of their experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-122
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2010


  • Developmental disability
  • Multisensory therapy
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of multisensory therapy on behaviour of adult clients with developmental disabilities-A systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this