Importance: Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are twice as likely as their peers without disabilities to have had a physical exam in the past year; however, as a result of challenging behavior during office visits, they are significantly less likely to have received recommended health screenings. Challenging behaviors in clinical settings have been identified as a barrier to providing adequate care for this population.

Objective: This scoping review examined the within-session effects of multisensory environments (MSEs) on people with IDD to determine the clinical utility of MSEs for this population.

Data Sources: Studies published between January 1, 2000, and August 1, 2018, were identified using Summon and Google Scholar.

Study Selection: Studies were included in the review if they systematically collected and reported data on within-session effects of an MSE intervention on people with IDD.

Findings: Thirteen studies met criteria for this review: 4 with Level I evidence, 2 with Level II evidence, 3 with Level III evidence, and 4 with Level IV evidence. Studies examined the effects of MSEs on maladaptive behaviors, positive behaviors, distress and discomfort, activity and alertness states, and cost of care for people with IDD.

Conclusion and Relevance: Preliminary support was found for the use of MSEs in clinical settings to reduce anxiety and challenging behaviors in patients with IDD during clinical care. Further research is needed to determine the efficacy of MSEs for producing the effects described in this review.

What This Article Adds: The findings support the potential of MSEs as a tool that occupational therapy practitioners can use to support their clients with IDD who have sensory sensitivities in clinical settings. This article also highlights a multidisciplinary approach whereby medical providers and occupational therapy practitioners could work together in nontraditional ways to support this population.

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