Methods and Strategies: Sensory Intervention Plans

Sensory processing refers to the ability of the central nervous system to take in and respond to environmental input from all of the senses, including vision, hearing, touch, responses to movement and pressure on the body, taste, and smell. Self-regulation refers to the ability to maintain a calm, alert, and attentive state which promotes involvement in learning experiences and interaction with others. Many people with autism are believed to demonstrate atypical reactions to sensory input. The self-stimulatory or perseverative behaviors exhibited by persons with autism are possibly attempts to seek out calming and organizing sensory input or to avoid disorganizing input from the environment. Examples of difficulty with sensory processing and self-regulation may include:

• Excessive jumping, running, or spinning which indicates a need for vestibular
(movement of the head through space) and proprioceptive (movement and position of the body) input
• Biting, sucking, and chewing excessively which indicates a need for proprioceptive input through the mouth
• Excessive touching or avoidance of touching which indicates atypical reactions from the tactile (touch) system
• Agitated behavior or under-responsive behavior in loud, crowded, or visually
stimulating situations which indicates over-reactivity to noise, touch, or visual input.

Difficulties with sensory processing and self-regulation can be addressed through careful assessment of the individual student’s needs. A sensory intervention plan is developed based on the specific sensory needs of the child. The learning environment is modified to reduce sensory defensiveness and enhance self-regulation. Specific activities are planned throughout the student’s day to promote better attention and engagement in learning. If the team identifies self-regulation related to sensory processing difficulties as a need related to the child’s education, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) lists the use of a sensory intervention plan as a modification or strategy.

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