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Is it Sensory or Behavior?

A common question amongst parents and teachers and even professionals is it sensory or behavior? Well, I am here to tell you that it is both; the sensory processing system informs a behavioral response.


As somebody who cares about sensitive children, you may notice that punitive measures such as timeouts, shouting, or any other shame-driven actions do not work on these children. Punishing them will not help them understand or get better at the activity that is requested of them.


Their sensory systems are often on overload and that is what is driving their behavior.

These children have a neurological difference that is impacting their ability to do what is expected of them and preventing them from feeling successful. It is our duty and responsibility to look closely at these children to see if they are having a sensory or behavioral response to the expectations that we are enforcing.

The way to tease out whether the child is having a sensorial or behavioral response to activities such as dressing, bathing, or even being able to sit still in a circle for circle time is to gently expose the child to the activity in a fun and safe way. The best time to introduce the activity may not be at the time when the child actually needs to perform and/or complete the task. Instead, it may be better for the child to engage in the activity for just a couple of minutes at a time and work their way up to engaging in the activity/task for increasingly longer periods of time. The best way to approach this type of learning is often with lots of play and a good relationship between the caregiver and child.


Find what the child is interested in and play your way into the activity that the child finds challenging. New and challenging activities take practice for children with sensitive sensory systems. What fires together, wires together so let’s make these difficult activities fun for the child!


Remember to have fun! If you are having fun, so is the child. Thank for listening and good luck!


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   ©2021 by Oak Bloom OT