SENSORY PROCESSING ON AN IEP or 504: WHAT, WHY AND HOW

INTRODUCTION



In case you do not have time to watch the video, the most important message is that sensory differences should always be considered as a factor for a child on the autism spectrum, even if the child is not showing any obvious signs of distress. Unrecognized sensory processing differences will cause problems with academic and social aspects of school. I strongly recommend you watch the video because it puts in context everything provided below.


One thing to add to the video that processing differences can involve speed rather than intensity. Each type of input can be processed slower than the others, requiring additional time for the person to get information in and respond.

 

Beyond the video:


What Tests can be Used to Assess Sensory Processing?


Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) (Ayres, 1989)

Clinical Observations of Proprioception (Blanche et al., 2012)

Test of Ideational Praxis (May-Benson and Cemak, 2007)

Sensory Processing Measure (Parham & Ecker, 2007)

Sensory Profile 2 (Dunn, 2014)

Sensory Experiences Questionnaire Version 3.0 (Little et al., 2011)

Goal-Oriented Assessment of Life Skills (Miller, 2013)


To get your child assessed, you need to request the evaluation in writing, expressing your concerns in this area. It is one of the areas relevant to the disability of autism and your district should evaluate.


The most common assessment tool used in schools in Sensory Profile. It is a questionnaire that should be filled out both by child’s teachers and parents.


One thing to keep in mind is that Sensory Profile is based on subjective reporting. Teachers who are not trained in sensory integration and processing issues might not see the signs of sensory differences. Parents can be so used to their particular child’s behaviors that, on the contrary, they can sometimes underestimate how unusual or frequent they are. It is something to keep in mind when interpreting the results of this assessment.


 

Eight Types of Sensory Inputs:


1. Visual (vision)


  • Child can be oversensitive to visual information, which can be very distracting.

  • Child becomes “stuck” on visual stimuli and cannot direct attention to a task.

  • Many children with autism do not function well in visually cluttered classrooms and cannot deal with busy worksheets or other large visual processing demands.



2. Auditory (hearing)

  • Affects ability to prioritize human voice from other auditory inputs (i.e. pay attention to the teacher’s voice when there are noises present in the classroom, such as a clock ticking our noises from the street)

  • Affects ability to register being called by name or register speech that is directed at child

  • Affects echolocation (ability to determine the direction sound is coming from)

  • Increased sensitivity can manifest as discomfort caused by certain sounds (flushing a toilet, electric hand dryer, vacuum cleaner), specific pitches or loud noise in general (school assembly or concerts can be problematic)

  • Child can enjoy mimicking certain noises without it having a communicative function, for example, car's honking or dishwasher beeping



3. Olfactory (Smell)

  • Child can send much time smelling all types of objects

  • Child can be oversensitive to specific smells. For example, I have worked with a boy who could not tolerate smell of onions. Some children cannot tolerate strong smell of food in general. Other smells can also be aversive.

o Can interfere with eating or being in certain spaces where the smell is

present





4. Gustatory/Oral (Taste)

  • Increased sensitivity to flavors and textures can make certain foods or ingredients aversive

  • Increased sensitivity to textures can interfere with eating. Child can avoid textures or gag on certain textures.

  • Certain flavors and textures can be highly preferred

  • Affects child's diet and ability to participate in social interactions and activities that involve food