There is a bit of unnecessary tension between the fields of applied behavior analysis and sensory therapy. There needn't be. Both approaches have tons of research. Sometimes there is an overlap in the type of therapy one might consider for a given situation. Excellent! Both types of therapists can give a problem a "go". I am grateful to have colleagues to refer difficult cases to and am glad to help their clients, as well.
I've compiled, what I contend, are a list of truisms regarding the scope and overlap of these two types of therapies.
1. Yes, there is such a thing as sensory processing disorder. Yes, there is evidence. Do sensory interventions work? In many cases, yes. See the many, many papers written.
2. No, sensory techniques do not solve all sensory issues. Sometimes a child has developed negative habits and a behaviorist can provide the best therapy. In fact, for truly challenging problems, a behaviorist approach can be a God-send.
3. A behavior approach can be the therapy of choice for feeding problems - even those with textures and tastes. Why? Sometimes the child just needs to get past the weirdness of texture and tastes. There is a rule of 13 tastings. When a child tries a food (that they don't hate) 13 times, they acclimate to it. This is especially important for children who are at risk for failure-to-thrive due to feeding issues.
4. Using one of the BIG sensory therapies such as Therapressure™ (Wilbarger Protocol), sound therapy or a strictly followed sensory diet can change the life of a child with sensitivity (hyper-reactivity) to sensory input. These children suffer - we need to help them
5. "ABA"-based therapies have helped many children with autism to attend to lessons in a regular-education classroom. This can be a life-changer for a child.
6. Movement and other sensory-style breaks throughout the day help all children to attend better in class. This can help all children achieve higher grades.
7. New medical research is uncovering unusual issues in children with autism that affect their behavior. Treating a medical issue with sensory or aba-style therapies can be a waste of time.
That's the short list. What other things might you add?