Occupational therapists use sensory-based interventions (SBIs) to improve the behavior of children, adolescents and adults with developmental and sensory processing challenges. SBIs are the guided use of sensory coping strategies and adaptive equipment to improve sensory modulation skills and behavior. Emerging evidence suggests that SBIs can significantly reduce distress and promote attention.
SBIs empower clients to actively substitute the sensory input provided through aggressive and self-injurious behavior with sensory coping strategies and adaptive equipment.
Research indicates that Aerobic exercise, Sensory-Motor, Massage, and Mindfulness activities significantly improve behavior in individuals with developmental disabilities. Parent administered massage and sensory-motor activities significantly improved the communication skills of preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorders showed significantly greater improvement given only parent massage dailif they had mild behavioral impairment, but both parent and therapist massage if they had severe behavioral impairment.
Environmental adaptations that reduced noise levels and visual distractions significantly improved attention in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Weighted vests significantly improved attention and learning in students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but did not in reduce repetitive non-purposeful behaviors in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Given the limited research on the efficacy of SBIs it is important to develop specific goals, gather baseline data, then individually introduce sensory coping strategies or adaptive equipment to determine their effectiveness. It can be useful to introduce SBIs as an experiment that will be continued if it helps the client reach their goals.
Integrating SBIs with behavioral intervention appears most effective for helping clients with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Deep pressure sensory interventions Roll therapy ball Core progression Strategy have been shown to reinforce the behaviors that follow them in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. SBIs can also be useful for preventing incidences of inappropriate behavior, or teaching replacement activities that decrease aggressive and self-injurious behavior. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorders it is helpful to provide sensory strategies before and after challenging activities, and to avoid accidentally providing sensory input as a reinforcement for inappropriate behavior.
SBIs have been found to significantly contribute to reducing client distress, restraints and seclusion in pediatric and adult mental health facilities. Adaptive equipment found to significantly reduce distress in individuals with mental health challenges includes sensory coping areas, weighted blankets, and environmental adaptations to reduce noise levels.
Sensory coping strategies including meaningful occupations, mindfulness, and exercise activities have enabled clients to decrease their distress and aggression. SBIs use individually guided, goal-directed sensory strategies and adaptive equipment to improve the behavior of children, adolescents and adults with developmental, mental health and sensory challenges.
Buckle, F., Franzsen, D., Bester, J. (2011). The effect of the wearing of weighted vests on the sensory behavior of learners diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder within a school context. South African Journal of Occupational Therapy, 47(3), 36-42.
Case-Smith, J., Weaver, L. L., & Fristad, M. A. (2014). A systematic review of sensory processing interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders. Autism, 1362361313517762.
Champagne, T., Mullen, B., Dickson, D., & Krishnamurty, S. (2015). Evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the weighted blanket with adults during an inpatient mental health hospitalization. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 31(3), 211-233.
Fedewa, A. L., & Erwin, H. E. (2011). Stability balls and students with attention and hyperactivity concerns: Implications for on-task and in-seat behavior. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 6(4), 393-399.
Kinnealey, M., Pfeiffer, B., Miller, J., Roan, C., Shoener, R., & Ellner, M. L. (2012). Effect of classroom modification on attention and engagement of students with autism or dyspraxia. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66, 511–519.
Lin, H.-Y., Lee, P., Chang, W.-D., & Hong, F.-Y. (2014). Effects of weighted vests on attention, impulse control, and on-task behavior in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, 149–158. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.009365
Mawson, A. R. (2012). Toward a theory of childhood learning disorders, hyperactivity, and aggression. ISRN psychiatry, 2012.
McGinnis, A. A., Blakely, E. Q., Harvey, A. C., & Rickards, J. B. (2013). The behavioral effects of a procedure used by pediatric occupational therapists. Behavioral Interventions, 28(1), 48-57.
Murray, M., Baker, P. H., Murray-Slutsky, C., & Paris, B. (2009). Strategies for supporting the sensory-based learner. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 53(4), 245-252.
Shapiro, M., Sgan-Cohen, H. D., Parush, S., & Melmed, R. N. (2009). Influence of adapted environment on the anxiety of medically treated children with developmental disability. The Journal of pediatrics, 154(4), 546-550.
Silva, L. M. Schalock, M., Gabrielsen, C. (2011). Early intervention for Autism with a parent-delivered qigong massage program: A randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(5), 550-559.
Woo, C. C., Donnelly, J. H., Steinberg-Epstein, R., & Leon, M. (2015). Environmental enrichment as a therapy for autism: A clinical trial replication and extension. Behavioral neuroscience, 129(4), 412.
Woo, C. C., & Leon, M. (2013). Environmental enrichment as an effective treatment for autism: a randomized controlled trial. Behavioral neuroscience, 127(4), 487.