Sensory Motor/Self-Regulation

Sensory Processing

Sensory Processing is the process through which our brain receives, organizes, and interprets information from our senses and uses the information in a meaningful and functional manner.

HOW IT WORKS: Sensory information is received through various receptors throughout our bodies and then sent to the brain for processing. Our brain organizes the information and facilitates an appropriate response or reaction. Touching a hot burner and retracting the hand quickly due to pain is a simple example of sensory processing. The most familiar sensory inputs include vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. However, the other sensory systems include the sense of movement (vestibular) and the sense of body position (proprioception).

Sensory Processing

Every experience we have involves our body's ability to take in sensory input, process it, and produce an appropriate response. When a child explores the world through their senses, they develop fine motor skills, gross motor skills, language abilities, self-confidence, and so much more.

Below are some ideas for offering sensory experiences for your child at home:


Tactile (Touch)

(The sensory system that receives sensations of touch pressure, vibration, movement, temperature, and pain, primarily through receptors in the skin)

  • Shaving Cream

  • Play Dough

  • Make your own Bubbles

  • Texture Scavenger hunt inside or out.

  • Hand Fidgets:

  • Sensory Bins: Fill a small container with uncooked macaroni, rice, corn starch, sand, etc.

  • Guess that Texture: Put 20 objects in a box and feel. Try to guess what you feel without looking!



(The sensory system that responds to changes in head position and movement through space and that coordinates movements of the eyes, head, and body. Receptors are located in the inner ear.

  • Swinging

  • Rocking in a chair

  • Hanging upside down

  • Spinning (use caution-link)

  • Riding a bike or scooter

  • Somersaults/cartwheels

  • Skipping, galloping, jumping, rolling

  • Sliding

  • Obstacle courses



(Awareness of sensations coming from joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Tells us where our arms and legs are, how they interrelate, and how they move)

  • Weightbearing activities: crawling, push-ups

  • Resistance activities: pushing/pulling

  • Heavy lifting: carrying books, etc.

  • Cardiovascular activities: running, jumping on a trampoline

  • Oral activities: chewing, blowing bubbles

  • Deep pressure: tight hugs, squeezes

  • Heavy work activities at home



(Receptors in the eye are stimulated by light- This system is affected by acuity (the ability to focus the eyes); ocular motor (muscles of the eyes); visual motor coordination and visual perception.)

  • Provide a quiet area with a bean bag or mat to be used as a retreat as needed

  • Limit visual stimulation on walls

  • Avoid overhead lighting; soften lights

  • Tinted glasses or sunglasses

  • Checklists

  • Picture schedules


Auditory (Hearing)

(Receives information from receptors in the inner ear that are stimulated by airwaves and send sound information to the brain. Allows us to hear, discriminate, and localize sounds.)

  • Noise cancelling headphones

  • Provide relaxing music or white noise (from a fan, white noise machine, fountain, etc. or app)

  • Provide a quiet corner or room for a child to go to/use to calm down

  • Give control: For children with auditory sensitivity, predicting and controlling sounds can be helpful. Encourage him to turn on the vacuum, pop balloons, etc. Try Sound Eaze and School Eaze CDs that desensitize children to everyday sounds such as flushing toilets, thunder, dogs barking, alarms, etc.

  • Whenever possible, prepare your child before a difficult sound occurs.


Olfactory (Smell)

(Chemical receptors located in the nasal structure allow us to smell and discriminate between various smells.)

  • Explore scents with your child to find ones that work best to soothe or to wake him/her up.

  • Vanilla and rose are generally calming.

  • Peppermint and citrus are generally alerting.

  • Some children do not tolerate strong scents well. For them, use unscented detergents and soaps whenever possible.

  • Play a smelling game: Close your eyes and try to identify smells such as fruit, flowers, spices such as cinnamon, etc.


Gustatory (Taste)

(Chemical receptors on the tongue allow us to differentiate between flavors (sweet, sour, salty, or bitter); and textures (soft, hard, sticky, or crunchy).)

  • Oral motor input such as blowing or sucking can be very organizing for the nervous system.

  • In general, foods that are crunchy, sour, salty, or cold are alerting; whereas warm, sweet, or chewy foods are calming.

TIPS for "picky eaters"

  • Play with your food

  • Involve kids in food preparation

  • Provide choice

  • Play a taste game

  • Give strong-tasting foods before introducing new ones

Consult with your child's occupational therapistfor more information and guidance in developing sensory tools for your child.

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