Sensory Processing 101

by | May 15, 2019 | Occupational Therapy


Our central nervous system is made up of 6 senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, sound and lastly another sense known as proprioception, or deep pressure, to the body

Does sensory ever disappear?

Sensory needs do not ever really “go away” we just learn how to adapt and use tools that are going to help to regulate what we need to complete everyday tasks. As adults we learn strategies to fulfil our sensory needs.

What is Sensory Processing?

Seeker: if someone were to give you a firm handshake, an individual without sensory processing challenges would receive 100% of that feedback. If you were to give a sensory seeking individual a handshake with the same amount of pressure, their sensory system might only process 50% of that feedback so they would look elsewhere to fulfill the 100% (crashing, jumping, crawling, etc.).

Avoider: Inversely, individuals without sensory processing challenges might interpret a tag in their clothes at 100%, tuning it out. Where as an avoider will interpret it at 200% and therefore, they cannot overcome the input from the tag touching their skin.

What is a sensory diet?

A sensory diet is a concept that Occupational Therapists recommend to help children fulfill their sensory needs often times throughout the day to decrease the severity of meltdowns. With the sensory processing challenges, receiving the sensory input throughout the day will decrease meltdowns.


–          Starting the day with a vibrating toothbrush

–          Animal crawls to the kitchen for breakfast (bear crawls, crab walks,

–          Setting the table for breakfast (wiping the table, pushing the chairs out)

–          Clapping games while they are still trying to wake op

–          Eating crunchy foods like apples or carrots

–          Getting wrapped up tight in a blanket (burrito style)

–          Vibration, hand held massagers


–          Playground- swinging, monkey bars, climbing

–          Sensory bins (dry beans, dry rice, pasta noodles, orbeez)

–          Sensory bottles (oil, water, glitter)

–          Blowing bubbles

–          Blowing up a balloon

–          Carrying groceries inside

–          Tug a war

–          Crashing and jumping into pillows

–          Blowing pinwheels

–          Shaving cream designs

–          Helping make a meal (mixing, rolling, scooping)


–          Reading their night time story on a vestibular surface (ball)

–          Compressions prior to getting into bed to provide the body proprioceptive input

–          Weighted blankets used to provide a sense of security while providing proprioceptive input

–          Essential oils used to fulfill our olfactory sensory to calm or relax the body with smells

         Lotion massages, after bath using lotion to massage your child and begin to relax and wind down.

–          White noise, or nature sounds in the background of bedtime routine.

If you are concerned about your child’s sensory processing, you may want to consult the Occupational Therapists at Team 4 Kids Pediatric Therapy Center. Checking on your child’s sensory regulation is as easy as coming in for a free 15-minute screen at the current Surprise location or at the soon to be opened Peoria location. After participating in this screen, we will let you know if a full evaluation should be considered or if development overall is judged as appropriate, we will provide you with suggestions and strategies to help your child.

Bre Aker COTA