Sensory Processing

Sensory Processing
Sensory Tool Kit
Rhonda Kelley, OTR
Brandy Tudor, COTA
What is Sensory Processing?
• Sensory processing refers to how the brain takes in
information from the sensory systems
• The brain registers, interprets and uses this information to
– Screen or ignore the sensory stimuli
– Notice it and respond to the stimuli
– Habituate the stimuli
• We need sensory input for our brain to develop and
continue to function properly
Sensory Systems
• Tactile (touch)
• Vestibular (balance & movement)
• Proprioception
(body awareness; muscles and joints)
• Visual (sight)
• Auditory (hearing)
• Gustatory (taste)
• Olfactory (smell)
What is Sensory Regulation?
• Regulation allows us to focus on what is important
• A well regulated student is able to notice relevant stimuli
and filter out unimportant stimuli
• Emotions and behavior reflect appropriate responses to the
situation rather than to the environment
• Regulation Disorder
– The brain has difficulty with determining what is important. It is difficult
to organize the environmental stimuli.
Sensory Processing Deficits:
• Limit one’s productivity
• Limit one’s enjoyment and participation
• May result in poor self-esteem
• Cause avoidance behaviors
• Cause unexplained outbursts
• Decreases social skills & participation in play
• Cause difficulty with life skills at home & school
• Anxiety
• Poor attention
• Poor regulation of reactions to others
• Poor motor skills development
Types of
Just Right
Sensory Strategies
Sensory Strategies
• Implement a Sensory Diet
• Use proprioceptive input – “magic pill” for sensory regulation
Heavy work stimulates the brain to bring arousal to a normal level
Heavy resistance against muscles invokes a quick calm and increases body
awareness to help the student feel more grounded
Helps the student feel “just right”
Effects can last from 90 minutes to 2 hours
• Use vestibular input – can have alerting or calming effects
depending on the type of movement involved
Fast movement – alerting
Slow, rhythmical movement – calming
Avoid spinning
• Use pressure touch – can have a calming effect
Soothing – slow, continuous, steady, prolonged
Exciting – fast, intermittent, vibratory
• Use deep pressure
Inhibits tactile defensiveness (over responsiveness)
Can produce a calming effect
• A planned, scheduled activity program to
specifically meet the needs of the student’s
nervous system
• The purpose is to bring them to a “just right
state” to be ready for learning
• The schedule is individualized to the student’s
school schedule
• Need at least 10 minutes of moderate activity to
increase serotonin and the effect could last up
to 2 hours
• Not a cure all for behavior but you can meet
the sensory needs while addressing the behavior
• Walking, running, jumping, rolling
• Doing chair or wall push-ups
• Erasing boards
• Chewing/crunching/sucking
• Crawling (tunnels/obstacles)
• Jumping on trampoline
• Stacking chairs
• Wearing a weighted vest*
• Wearing a weighted backpack
• Carrying crate with books
Weighted Vest
*Only use weight up
to 10% of child’s
body weight. Child
only wears the vest
for 20-40 minutes.
Student Scenarios
• Difficulty with sitting still during carpet
• Continually making noises
• Avoids certain centers
• Chews on coat and other things
• Difficulty in music class
• Does well on the playground
• Sitting still during carpet time
– Choose 1-2 heavy work activities before going to
carpet time
– Use weighted item in lap or on shoulders
– Sit on shag carpet square or disco sit
– Alternative seating (bean bag, cube chair,
• Continually makes noises / chews on items
– Blow bubbles, kazoo, harmonica before carpet
– Chew on candy (Starbursts, gummy bear)
– Drink through a straw / water bottle
– Sing silly songs with mouth movements
• Avoids certain centers
– Heavy work activity before going to non-preferred
– Count down with timer
– Cue to start / cue to stop (warning)
– Use a transition item (sticker)
• Difficulty in music class
– Change placement in class; sit by friend
– Cue to start / cue to stop / transition item
– Wear headphones (if bothered by loud noise)
• Does well on the playground
– Do not use playground as a punishment
– Observe him to see what he is seeking and use it
during the day
• Transition Activities
– Notify in advance / visual schedule
– Push or carry heavy object to new activity
– Skip, hop, dance
– Compression on shoulders
– Use a clapping or rhythmic beating to signify
– Sing a song
• Sleepy during the day
• Inattention / difficulty sustaining
• Easily frustrated
• Sleepy during the day
– Alerting activities (jumping, walking, chair pushups)
– Wash hands
– Chew on candy or chewy tube
• Inattention / difficulty sustaining attention
– Bring attention to task (bright colors; highlight
edge of paper; add stickers)
– Fast rhythmic music
– Break large tasks into smaller steps
– Heavy work activity before starting task
• Easily frustrated
– Heavy pressure / shoulder compression to calm
– Complete tasks in small steps
– Clear beginning and an end to task
– Continue with puzzle piece strategy

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