Sensory Processing

Sensory processing is something we all do everyday. We process input from our environment visually, audibly, olfactorily, tactilely, and flavorfully. For most of us, processing sensory information isn’t very hard. We can control the amount we receive with relative ease. However, this isn’t the case for many individuals with ASD.

Many people with ASD experience sensitivity to sensory information, or low registration to sensory information. In other words, they either experience too much or too little sensory processing. In consequence, the individual may try to avoid sensory information, or try to seek more of a certain type of sensory input. Each individual is different; therefore, a comprehensive list of behaviors cannot be given. However, some examples may include:

  • banging or flapping of body parts.
  • covering ears or eyes
  • crawling under the desk or between tight spaces
  • compulsive touching
  • smelling inappropriate things

Winnie Dunn, in her chapter for Buron & Wolfberg’s Learners on the Autism Spectrum (2014, pp. 133-147), gives very helpful charts for practical application in the classroom. These tips can be modified for the home or community as well. A few tips from her charts will be listed at the end of this page.

Exposing individuals with sensory processing difficulties to over exposure or random trial and error procedures are not acceptable. Everyone is different in regards to needs and effective management. Occupational Therapists are expects in sensory processing and should be consulted before implementing any plan.

Tips

Seeking

  • adjust lighting, or let the student adjust lighting in his workspace.
  • have healthy snacks available for the student
  • allow the student to change work stations when needed. Set up two or three areas where the student can choose to work when a change is need.

Low Registration

  • Create jobs for the student to do throughout the day
  • Use visual supports and routines to help teach the student
  • Let the student listen to music during independent work times to keep alertness up.

Sensitivity

  • Limit noise exposure (either through the use of headphones, alternate workspace, or alternate activities).
  • Help the student recognize problem areas and learn to self advocate when things get overwhelming.
  • Provide time schedules to minimize potential contact with other students that may be too sensitive for the student.
Avoiding
  • Create routines.
  • Have the student’s workspace away from main traffic areas of the classroom.
  • Prepare the student in advance for situations and activities that may pose a challenge. This can be done through visual direct instruction, or other methods.
Reference

Dunn, W. (2014). Sensory Processing: Identifying Patterns and Designing Support Strategies. IN K. D. Buron & P. Wolfberg, Learners on the Autsim Spectrum: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators and Related Practitioners (2nd ed., pp. 83-105). Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

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