Purpose: Following the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) concepts, this study examines body functions such as sensory modulation and sleep quality among adults with learning disabilities (LD).

Methods: One hundred and ten participants, 55 adults with LD and 55 matched controls (mean age 30 years) filled in a socio-demographic questionnaire, the Adults/Adolescents Sensory Profile (AASP), and the Mini Sleep Questionnaire (MSQ). Chi-tests, Mann-Whitney tests, and Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests were conducted to examine group differences related to socio-demographic characteristics and body functions. Correlation and regression analyses were conducted to examine relationships between body functions.

Results: Significant differences were found between the groups in: (a) unique socio-demographic variables: high-schools attended, family status and number of children; (b) body functions: low registration and sensory sensitivity (p < .001), sensory avoiding (p = .002), sensory seeking (p = .021) and sleep quality (p < .001). Significant correlations were found between AASP subscale scores and the MSQ final score in each group. Regression analysis revealed that for the entire sample (N = 108), low registration accounted for 10.2% of the variance of sleep quality above group membership (p < .001), while in a separate examination of adults with LD (n = 53), low registration accounted for 19.9% of the variance of sleep quality (p < .001).

Conclusions: Adults with LD need to be studied through a health-related perspective such as the ICF model to gain further understanding of their unique characteristics and daily needs. Sensory and sleep functions of adults with LD should be further studied in the context of health related quality of life.

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Published in: PLoS ONE, 2015, 10(2), 1-14.