Sensory Strategies Occupational Therapists Should Know - Pace Savannah News

Sensory Strategies Occupational Therapists Should Know


All humans rely on their senses to interface with the world, and that fact makes them a potent tool for occupational therapists. There are many sensory strategies that a therapist can use to encourage certain states of mind, such as alertness or serenity, in their patients, but a few stand out as particularly easy and effective.

Exercise Bands

Many people benefit from an opportunity to exercise while working on other activities. Giving that opportunity to them can be difficult, since they need to be able to exercise in a way that does not distract anyone else or prevent them from working. One of the best ways to do that is to attach an exercise band to the bottom of a seat, where the patient can use it with their feet. The bands are quiet, small, and durable, but they still provide enough stimulation to help with focus.

Chewing Gum

Chewing gum has been found to improve focus in many cases, and it is quiet and discreet enough to be used in almost every situation. It is particularly useful in mixed groups where only a minority people need sensory support, since chewing gum is too common to be heavily stigmatized. When possible, it is best to use sugar-free gum for this technique to make sure that people who rely on it do not consume an unhealthy amount of sugar during the day.

Noise Control

Controlling the level of noise in a room is often the first step to keeping the people inside it calm. Loud noises can be frightening and confusing to many people, so keeping things quiet is often enough to solve behavioral problems. Keeping a noise meter in the room to help keep things acceptably quiet can be useful, and in extreme cases people can benefit from using noise-reducing headphones.

Visual Simplicity

An excess of visual information can lead to over-stimulation, which can only be prevented by reducing that information. There are several ways to do this. The easiest is keeping desks and tables clean, which can also teach valuable organizational skills. Dimming the lights can also help, as can providing access to simple, repetitive sources of visual information, such as fish tanks.

Breathing Exercises

Special exercises can do just as much good as controlling the environment. Many patients benefit from practicing controlled breathing techniques and meditation. Yoga is an especially useful tool for these people, since it combines breathing exercises with stretching and other physical stimulation. When possible, it is usually best to practice these techniques in several short sessions spread throughout the day rather than a single long session. This allows it to serve as a break between stressful activities, which increases its ability to prevent problems.

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