Occupational Therapy -> Sensory


Sensory processing refers to the way we take in, interpret and respond to the information in our environment. We obtain sensory input in many ways through different sensory systems including vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Three additional sensory systems are not as obvious/well known and include proprioceptive, vestibular and interoceptive. Occupational therapists work on sensory processing skills when an individual’s participation in important daily activities is impacted by challenges processing information in one or several of these areas.

Reference links

  • Effectiveness of Sensory Integration Interventions In Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Pilot Study 1
    Author: Beth A. Pfeiffer, PhD, OTR/L, BCP, Kristie Koenig, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Moya Kinnealey, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Megan Sheppard, MOT, OTR/L, a - This study provides preliminary support for using SI interventions in children with ASD, although further research is necessary. Results identified significant progress toward individualized goals, although no significant changes were found on the other measures. Results suggest implementing interventions that are generalized to home and community settings, using tools that allow for individualized sensitive measurement in future studies, and completing future studies with a larger sample.
  • Occupational Therapy Using a Sensory Integration-Based Approach With Adult Populations 0
    Author: American Occupational Therapy Association - Occupational performance difficulties due to sensory modulation challenges or poor integration of sensation can result from difficulties in how the nervous system receives, organizes, and uses sensory information from the body and the physical environment for self-regulation, motor planning, and skill development. These problems impact self-concept, emotional regulation, attention, problem solving, behavior control, skill performance, and the capacity to develop and maintain interpersonal relationships. In adults, they may negatively impact the ability to parent, work, or engage in home management, social, and leisure activities.
  • Therapy Co-Treatment Scenarios and Documentation - Harmony Healthcare International (HHI) Blog 1
    Author: Kris Mastrangelo, OTR/L, LNHA, MBA - PT and OT appear to be a natural pairing because of the treatment crossover in neuromuscular and orthopedic deficit remediation. However, patients also benefit from co-treatments with SLP and OT, for interventions such as self feeding. During these types of therapeutic collaborations, OT can address postural alignment, positioning, adaptive equipment, and the motor sequence of self feeding, while the SLP addresses bolus size, rate of presentation, and any specific strategies identified to reduce the risk of aspiration; such as chin tuck swallow, or multiple swallows per bolus. Examples of appropriate goals in support of co-treatment follow: Patient will demonstrate self feeding skills with setup assistance x 4/5 consecutive sessions x 14 days, while applying swallow safety strategies with minimal verbal cueing. Patient will demonstrate lower body dressing skills with minimum assist while maintaining standing balance in order to complete the task safely in preparation for return to ALF.
  • Specific Sensory Techniques and Sensory Environmental Modifications For Children and Youth With Sensory Integration Difficulties: A Systematic Review 2
    Author: Bodison and Parham - Preschoolers with ASD and tactile over-reactivity may be particularly appropriate for Qigong massage, which has moderate to strong evidence to support its effectiveness when provided as QST. The evidence for the effectiveness of weighted vests with children with ADHD is limited, and it is insufficient for children with ASD. Occupational therapy practitioners should cautiously consider using weighted vests to support attention in the classroom for elementary school-age children with ADHD. The evidence for slow linear swinging is insufficient with respect to immediate effects on attention. Occupational therapy practitioners should not expect that slow linear swinging will immediately improve attention of preschoolers with ASD during tabletop activities. Insufficient evidence supports the effectiveness of regularly incorporating specific sensory techniques into classroom routines for preschoolers with ASD, so occupational therapy practitioners should consider the use of this intervention cautiously. Moderate evidence supports sensory modifications to the dental care environment. Occupational therapy practitioners who serve children with ASD should consider collaborating with dental professionals to explore using this new intervention. Citation: Stefanie C. Bodison, L. Diane Parham; Specific Sensory Techniques and Sensory Environmental Modifications for Children and Youth With Sensory Integration Difficulties: A Systematic Review. Am J Occup Ther January/February 2018, Vol. 72(1), 7201190040p1–7201190040p11. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2018.029413
  • Parental or Teacher Education and Coaching to Support Function and Participation of Children and Youth With Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration Challenges: A Systematic Review 2
    Author: Miller-Kuhaneck and Watling - Practitioners should be encouraged to increase involvement with parents and to also increase parental engagement in therapy provided in the clinic and school system. First, parent training and coaching interventions appear to be effective for certain specific child and parent outcomes, at least for parents of children with ASD (who also have challenges in SP–SI). Second, research in occupational therapy that focuses on the population of children with SP–SI concerns must better quantify those difficulties using valid and reliable tools. Third, the occupational therapy research base is too narrow and must expand to include studies of parents of children with challenges in SP–SI but without comorbid ASD as well as studies of teacher education. Parents may be able to be trained relatively quickly. Best outcomes may be found for interventions that parents provide frequently, 1 or more times per day. Citation: Heather Miller-Kuhaneck, Renee Watling; Parental or Teacher Education and Coaching to Support Function and Participation of Children and Youth With Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration Challenges: A Systematic Review. Am J Occup Ther January/February 2018, Vol. 72(1), 7201190030p1–7201190030p11. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2018.029017
  • Occupational Therapy Practice Guidelines For Children and Youth Ages 5–21 Years 2
    Author: Cahill and Beisbier - Collaborate with families and caregivers and provide services in the natural context of the desired occupation. The evidence also supports group service models and models that include peer mediation; these models can promote participation across areas of occupation. Skills-based training and therapeutic practice in the context of valued occupations are recommended over isolated sensorimotor approaches. Technology, manualized programs, and sports activities can be effective but should be evaluated and matched to age, diagnosis, and outcomes as guided by the evidence. Activity- and Occupation-Based Interventions to Support Activities of Daily Living, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, Play and Leisure, and Rest and Sleep -Parent, school, and community involvement should be supported throughout the course of intervention, and pediatric services should be provided in the natural context of the child’s or youth’s routine and environments. -Engagement in daily occupations should remain the central focus of goals and intervention. Practitioners should use manualized programs that have clear activity- and occupation-based strategies as opposed to those that are solely focused on performance skills or client factors. -Practitioners should collaborate with clients and caregivers to establish meaningful occupation-based and achievable goals and use intentional strategies to maintain a collaborative relationship throughout the therapy process. -Consistent caregiver training and instruction should be provided to promote carryover, and the power of the caregiver to effect change and support the child should be emphasized. -Practitioners should follow up with children, parents, and teachers and provide ongoing coaching and feedback on performance. They should provide opportunities for collaborative problem solving and model strategies for ongoing problem solving in the home and community as new challenges arise. -Skills-based interventions should incorporate peer, family member, and practitioner interaction. -Small-group service delivery methods provide an opportunity for increased motivation and modeling. -Practitioners should explore interactive technology interventions, especially with clients with ASD and ADHD. The use of technology can be coupled with skills training and other evidence-based interventions. -The evaluation and occupational profile should include consideration of the quality of rest and sleep. -Rest and sleep should be addressed to enhance health and well-being and increase performance and participation in meaningful occupations. Activity- and Occupation-Based Interventions to Improve Mental Health, Positive Behavior, and Social Participation -Activity- and occupation-based interventions should be implemented to address the mental health, positive behavior, and social participation of children and youth with or at risk for mental health concerns. -Practitioners should use group service delivery models when providing intervention to children and youth with or at risk for mental health concerns. -Sports activities should be used to develop social interaction skills. -Practitioners should incorporate meditation practices and blogging when attempting to foster positive feelings about self in children and youth. -Manualized yoga programs or less structured yoga games and poses should be used when addressing the mental health, positive behavior, and social participation of children and youth with or at risk for mental health concerns. Activity- and Occupation-Based Interventions to Improve Learning, Academic Achievement, and Successful Participation in School -Practitioners should incorporate peer support, such as peer tutoring and peer-mediated interventions, into occupational therapy interventions and provide services in typical school environments to promote social participation and academic performance. -Practitioners should emphasize the use of activity- and occupation-based approaches to improve learning, academic achievement, and successful participation in school. -Therapeutic practice should be favored over sensorimotor approaches for the development and remediation of handwriting and literacy skills and performance. -Weighted vests should be used with caution. Citation: Susan M. Cahill, Stephanie Beisbier; Occupational Therapy Practice Guidelines for Children and Youth Ages 5–21 Years. Am J Occup Ther July/August 2020, Vol. 74(4), 7404397010p1–7404397010p48. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.744001
  • Evaluation of MealSense©: A Sensory Integration–Based Feeding Support Program For Parents 2
    Author: Trewin, Mailloux, and Schaaf - Knowledge translation strategies may facilitate the usefulness of parent education programs related to sensory integration and feeding. MealSense provides an example of an online educational tool for parents of children with ASD and may be especially useful for times when in-person visits are not possible. Citation: Audrey Trewin, Zoe Mailloux, Roseann C. Schaaf; Evaluation of MealSense©: A Sensory Integration–Based Feeding Support Program for Parents. Am J Occup Ther May/June 2022, Vol. 76(3), 7603345020. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2022.046987
  • Effectiveness of Cognitive and Occupation-Based Interventions For Children With Challenges In Sensory Processing and Integration: A Systematic Review. 2
    Author: Pfeiffer, Clark, and Arbesman - Moderate support for specific types of cognitive and occupation-based interventions that support self-regulation including Alert Program and Social Stories. Occupation-based interventions involved leisure activities, which often occur in community settings. The provision of cognitive and occupation-based interventions that transcend clinical and school settings may result in successful outcomes in the natural home and community settings typical for children and adolescents. This therapeutic consideration is important in treatment planning and determining appropriate service delivery models for occupational therapy services. The cognitive and occupation-based interventions included in this systematic review were provided by interdisciplinary teams of professionals, and all included outcomes within the scope of occupational therapy. The interventions involved collaborations with families, educational staff, and other professionals to promote participation in daily life skills. These collaborations should be a priority when implementing these types of interventions. Citation: Beth Pfeiffer, Gloria Frolek Clark, Marian Arbesman; Effectiveness of Cognitive and Occupation-Based Interventions for Children With Challenges in Sensory Processing and Integration: A Systematic Review. Am J Occup Ther January/February 2018, Vol. 72(1), 7201190020p1–7201190020p9. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2018.028233
  • Efficacy of Occupational Therapy Using Ayres Sensory Integration®: A Systematic Review 2
    Author: Schaaf, Dumont, Arbesman, & May-Benson - The evidence is strong that ASI intervention demonstrates positive outcomes for improving individually generated goals of functioning and participation as measured by Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) for children with autism. Moderate evidence supported improvements in impairment-level outcomes of improvement in autistic behaviors and skills-based outcomes of reduction in caregiver assistance with self-care activities Citation: Roseann C. Schaaf, Rachel L. Dumont, Marian Arbesman, Teresa A. May-Benson; Efficacy of Occupational Therapy Using Ayres Sensory Integration®: A Systematic Review. Am J Occup Ther January/February 2018, Vol. 72(1), 7201190010p1–7201190010p10. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2018.028431
  • Echolalia and Its Role In Gestalt Language Acquisition 0
    Author: ASHA / Practice Portal / Clinical Topics / Autism Spectrum Disorder / - This view of gestalt language acquisition and the role of echolalia in individuals with ASD is reflected in assessment procedures (e.g., assessing communicative function of echolalia) and treatment approaches to language intervention (see e.g., Blanc, 2012). Gestalt language acquisitionis a style of language development with predictable stages that begins with production of multi-word “gestalt forms” and ends with production of novel utterances. At first, children produce “chunks” or “gestalt form” (e.g., echolalic utterances), without distinction between individual words and without appreciation for internal syntactic structure. As children understand more about syntax and syntactic rules, they can analyze (break down) these “gestalt forms” and begin to recombine segments and words into spontaneous forms. Eventually, the child is able to formulate creative, spontaneous utterances for communication purposes.

Activity List(s)

Visual Schedule Cards

Related Disorder(s)

  • Sensory processing disorders - Sensory processing disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder - Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder - Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors. The effects of ASD and the severity of symptoms are different in each person.
  • Neurological Conditions - Types of neurological conditions may include: Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementias, Brain Cancer, Epilepsy and Other Seizure Disorders, Mental Disorders, Parkinson’s and Other Movement Disorders, and Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).


Goal Bank

  • Kurtis will improve sensory processing and self regulation, independently, in 3 out of 3 attempts for increased body awareness, coordination, safety and direction following within a 3 month therapy period. 4
  • Peter will tolerate wearing his uniform to school with only 5 complaints by May 5 ,2023 . 0
  • With individually tailored behavior and sensory regime, Jake will apply learned strategies to accept sudden changes in his schedule, exhibiting acceptable behavior in 4 /5 opportunities, with visual cues, and 50% verbal cues as reported by teachers, and parents. 0


Therapists who selected this major focus area as their top area of expertise.

  • Teodora Gajic Bakic

    Teodora Gajic Bakic

    Full-time Therapist OTR/L

    Teodora Gajic Bakic, MOT, OTR/L, Temple University alumna is a Licensed and Registered Occupation...