OBJECTIVE. This study investigated changes in salivary cortisol, the stress hormone, after administration of a procedure based on the Wilbarger protocol to children diagnosed with sensory defensiveness (SD), a type of sensory modulation dysfunction.
METHOD. Using a single-subject design across participants, we studied 4 boys with SD ages 3 to 5 years. Each participant completed four sessions consisting of the collection of a saliva sample, administration of a procedure based on the Wilbarger protocol, 15 min of quiet neutral activities to allow time for any changes in cortisol level to manifest in the saliva, and the second collection of saliva. Saliva samples were analyzed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
RESULTS. Salivary cortisol levels in all participants changed after each of four applications of a procedure based on the Wilbarger protocol. The cortisol levels of 2 children whose levels were relatively higher on pretest decreased at each posttest. The levels of 1 child whose cortisol was higher on pretest three times decreased those three times and increased the one time the pretest cortisol was lower. The levels of 1 child who had the lowest cortisol levels of any of the children increased each time. Therefore, in all participants, cortisol moved in the direction of modulation.
CONCLUSION. In these 4 boys, a procedure based on the Wilbarger protocol modulated cortisol levels toward a middle range. This pilot study indicates that there is an association between sympathetic nervous system response and the Wilbarger protocol–based procedure, as indicated by salivary cortisol levels.