Occupational Therapy for Sensory Processing

Sensory processing, also known as sensory processing or sensory integration, refers to the way our nervous system receives, interprets, and responds to sensory information from our environment and our own bodies. Sensory processing plays a crucial role in our daily lives, as it allows us to perceive and make sense of the world around us. This process involves multiple sensory systems and helps us interact effectively with our surroundings and engage in various activities.

Clinical Specialisms

Several clinical specialisms and healthcare professionals are involved in addressing sensory processing issues and sensory processing disorders (SPD) across different age groups. These specialists collaborate to assess, diagnose, and provide interventions to individuals with sensory processing difficulties. 

How can Occupational Therapy help?

Occupational therapy (OT) plays a crucial role in helping individuals with sensory processing difficulties or sensory processing disorders (SPD) develop effective strategies to process and respond to sensory input more efficiently. OTs use a sensory integration approach to address these challenges. 

Comprehensive Assessment: Occupational therapists conduct thorough assessments to understand an individual's sensory processing difficulties. This assessment may include observations, interviews with the individual and caregivers, standardized assessments, and clinical observations to identify specific sensory challenges.

Sensory Integration Therapy: Sensory integration therapy is a core component of OT for sensory processing difficulties. It involves exposing individuals to various sensory experiences in a controlled and structured manner to help them process sensory input more effectively. Sensory activities are designed to promote adaptive responses to sensory stimuli.

Individualized Sensory Diets: Occupational therapists create individualized sensory diets or routines that include sensory activities tailored to the individual's sensory needs and sensitivities. These sensory diets help individuals maintain an optimal level of arousal and attention throughout the day.

Sensory Modulation: OTs work on sensory modulation, helping individuals regulate their responses to sensory input. This includes assisting them in managing sensory overload or sensory-seeking behaviors and learning to self-regulate.

Desensitization and Gradual Exposure: For individuals with sensory sensitivities, OTs may gradually expose them to sensory experiences that provoke discomfort or anxiety. This helps desensitize them and reduces their aversion to certain sensations.

Sensory Discrimination: OTs may work on sensory discrimination skills, helping individuals better distinguish between different sensory stimuli and make sense of their environment.

Fine and Gross Motor Skills: Occupational therapists address motor coordination and motor planning difficulties often associated with sensory processing challenges. Activities that involve movement can help improve motor skills and body awareness.

Environmental Modifications: OTs provide guidance on creating sensory-friendly environments at home, school, and other settings. This may involve recommendations for lighting, seating arrangements, and sensory accommodations.

Coping Strategies: Occupational therapists teach individuals with sensory processing difficulties coping strategies to manage sensory-related stress and anxiety. These strategies may include deep breathing, mindfulness techniques, or self-regulation exercises.

Self-Esteem and Social Skills: OTs work on improving self-esteem and social skills related to sensory processing. This includes helping individuals build self-confidence and effectively navigate social interactions despite sensory challenges.

Collaboration: OTs collaborate with other professionals, such as speech-language pathologists, behavioral therapists, and educators, to provide a holistic approach to intervention and support.

Education and Training: Occupational therapists educate individuals and their families about sensory processing difficulties, helping them understand their sensory profiles and providing strategies for daily life.

What does an Occupational Therapist do ?

Occupational Therapists (OTs) who specialize in sensory processing work with individuals, often children, who have sensory processing difficulties or sensory processing disorders (SPD). Their goal is to help these individuals develop strategies and skills to better process and respond to sensory input from their environment and their own bodies. 


Individualized Intervention Plans

Sensory Integration Therapy

Sensory Diets

Desensitization and Gradual Exposure

Sensory Modulation

Fine and Gross Motor Skills

Environmental Modifications

Coping Strategies

Self-Esteem and Social Skills

Education and Training