Sensory Processing Therapy Specialists

How Sensory Processing Difficulties Affect Behavior

Sensory Integration Behavior Strategies

It can be extremely difficult and frustrating for parents and caregivers when children are having difficulty with negative behaviors. Let’s say that you receive a call from your child’s school reporting that they often seem distracted and don’t pay attention in class, bump into kids in the lunch line, can’t hold a pencil correctly, become upset when asked to switch from one activity to another, or melt down during circle time. Although these seem like behaviors that are caused by the child seeking attention or not getting their way, sometimes it can root from difficulty with sensory input. It is important for parents to work with an occupational therapist to determine the root of the problem. Sensory integration therapy or a sensory diet may be the key to diminishing these behaviors. Sometimes simple routine changes can allow the child to regulate themselves and feel calmer, safer and more in control of themselves throughout the day. It is important to have an occupational therapist on your team to help make appropriate recommendations.

Sensory Integration

Sensory integration refers to how your body recognizes, processes, and responds to information received by our sensory systems on an individual and combined level. This includes our traditional 5 senses of sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing; however, we also have proprioceptive (the awareness of our muscles and joints and body in space), vestibular sensory systems (the awareness of our body position as we move through space) and interoception (our awareness of deep body sensations such as hunger and the need to use the restroom). Occupational therapists use sensory integration therapy by exposing a child to sensory stimulation in a structured and organized way. The goal of sensory integration therapy is to mature the child’s brain and nervous system to process sensory information more efficiently. The OT may use a sensory gym to engage the child in these repetitive and stimulating/calming activities.

Sensory Integration Strategies

  • Messy play – mud, dirt, water, food play, finger paints, shaving cream, bath bubbles, etc.
  • Noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs
  • Window shades or adjustable lights
  • Include your child in the meal preparation process – encourage them to help with their hands or by using cooking utensils to interact with the many food textures and smells.
  • Food play – Encourage your child to interact with new foods in the most basic manner; the SOS Feeding Approach, used commonly by Occupational Therapists, encourages the following progression with new foods: See –> Touch –> Kiss –> Lick –> Taste –> Chew & Swallow. It is important to allow your child to move at their own pace and allow them to clean off their hands or spit out food at any point along the continuum.
  • Sensory toys – check out Ark Therapeutic, a leading manufacturer of innovative therapy tools and special needs products! They have great sensory toys, chews and fidgets that can help your child deal with sensory overload.
  • Finger painting – also try bathtub paint or shaving cream/foam soap play to reduce the mess and give your child control over cleaning off his/her hands.
  • Listening to music
  • Having a clear visual schedule posted with plenty of preparation for transitions.
  • Providing sensory breaks such as walking in circles, jumping on a mini-trampoline, completing animal walks around the house or chewing on chewy foods/water bottle tops.
  • For the child who needs to move a bit, you might try an inflated seated cushion or a pillow to sit on so they can both wiggle and stay in their seat at the same time.

How can Pediatric Potentials, Inc. help?

At Pediatric Potentials, Inc., we specialize in Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing Therapy and play-based treatment interventions that are specifically designed to stimulate and challenge all of the senses. Sensory Integration involves specific sensory activities (swinging, bouncing, brushing, and more) that are intended to help your child regulate his or her response to incoming sensory input. The outcome of these activities may be better focus and attention, improved behavior, and even lowered anxiety and balanced activity level. Our therapists may work on lowering a patient’s negative reactions to touch, help them become better aware of their body in space, and work on their ability to manage their bodies more appropriately (run and jump when it’s time to run and jump, sit and focus when it’s time to sit and focus, etc.). Various techniques include swinging, deep pressure therapy, which may include pushing/pulling, squeezing, rolling, etc., jumping on a trampoline, or gross motor play such as wall climbing, balance beam activities, etc.

Pediatric Potentials, Inc. has the most state-of-the-art sensory gym in all of Orlando and Central Florida! Our sensory gym is fully equipped with rock climbing walls, slides, scooters, ball pit, trampolines, and an expansive set of swings to offer a wide-variety of sensory experiences for each child.

If you have questions regarding your child’s development or want to learn more about how sensory processing therapy and occupational therapy can help, call our office today at 407-322-3962. We provide services in Lake Mary, Longwood, Maitland, Winter Park, Winter Springs, Orlando and throughout Central Florida. We also work with children within their daycare and school settings.


Author/Information provided by: Kelli Arnone MOT, OTR/L, SIPT

Kelli Arnone is the Co-owner and Director of Pediatric Potentials, Inc. a private sensory processing therapy clinic in Lake Mary, Florida. She is a graduate of San Jose State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreational Therapy. Kelli earned her Master of Science degree in occupational therapy from Nova Southeastern University. Kelli has over 25 years of experience working with children with sensory integration challenges as well as other developmental delays. She has worked in numerous hospitals, schools, community programs and private practices. She is trained and certified to administer the Sensory Integration Praxis Test (SIPT) and is also trained and certified in Therapeutic ListeningHandwriting Without Tears, The Wilbarger Deep Pressure Protocol and is an Advanced Trained Neurofeedback Practitioner. Kelli also has presented on various topics at conferences, public and private schools and physician practices.

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