Using Sensory Supports for Non-Sensory Behaviors

I know that interventions, strategies, and support within the classroom must be used based on data and not our opinions or thoughts. However, I have been working with some wonderful occupational therapists who have taught me how to use sensory supports for students who may not be sensory seeking or avoiding. When working with students who do not yet have IEPs or if we are still getting to know them, we communicate with families and the educational team about what behaviors or struggles that we’re seeing within the classroom. Our wonderful OT supports us with all areas, and most recently explained how sensory supports may help non-sensory behaviors. The Autism Helper has many posts and resources that discuss Functional Behavioral Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans. Check them out here! In this post, I will share some of the information that I have learned throughout my time collaborating and learning from my amazing team! 

When referring to behaviors that communicate sensory needs, we have sensory seeking and sensory avoidance behaviors that we need to assess. Sensory experiences can help children understand their environments and support them to feel safe and secure. A well-developed sensory system is essential for both cognitive and social intelligence and is therefore required for children to become successful learners.

If we find that behavior is not so-called “sensory seeking” or if a behavior has multiple functions, these strategies come into use within the classroom which may in-turn help support or minimize the maladaptive behaviors that occur. There are many different types of sensory needs in a human, so knowing which one affects what system is important. The following is what I have learned and continue to learn about! 

  • Compression vest
  • Weighted vest
  • Weighted lap pad
  • Wiggle cushion or wobble chair 
  • Squeeze machine
  • Spin board
  • Chewies
  • Fidgets
  • Body sock
  • Swing
  • Tent
  • Visual stimulation such as bubble tubes 
  • Headphones 
  • Trampoline 

If your learner requires a sensory diet, your occupational therapist will evaluate the need and recommend a diet that works best for the individual. Go teams! 


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