Woodlands School

Sensory Integration

Understanding our senses

We have 7 interlinking sensory systems:

These are there to give us vital information about the physical condition of our body and the environment around us. The brain filters and processes any sensory information entering it. It then helps us make appropriate responses to particular situations or environmental demands. For example if a fly lands on our nose we:

  • Register that something is touching us  
  • Orientate ourselves to realise it is on our nose
  •  Interpret that it is a fly
  • Organise the correct response to deal with the situation
  • Execute an appropriate response - which in this situation may be to crinkle up our nose, shake our head or flick it away with our hair

Sensory Integration

If we have good sensory integration, then this sequence of registering, processing, organising and responding to everyday situations and environmental demands occurs effortlessly and automatically. This enables us to:

  • Enjoy playing in the snow
  • Put on our socks successfully
  • Brush our own teeth


What is Sensory Integration Dysfunction?

 If we have poor sensory integration however, the brain cannot register, process or organise the sensory input that it is receiving efficiently or effectively. Our responses to sensory stimuli may therefore be both disorganised and unpredictable. We call this a “sensory integration dysfunction” (SID) or a “sensory processing disorder” (SPD). Dysfunctions can be very specific and confined to just one of the sensory systems or generalised and affect multiple systems.

Sensory integration dysfunctions can cause problems with:

• Body awareness

• Balance

• Motor planning

• Motor co-ordination

• Arousal levels (hypo or hyper-active) and attention and impulse control

• Interactions with the environment or others

• Acts of daily life such as washing, dressing, grooming and eating

• Disturbed sleep patterns

• Manipulating toys and tools

• Behavioural issues such as screaming, hitting, self-stimulation or self-injury • Temper outbursts and mood changes

• Intolerance to noise, touch or taste


Who is affected by sensory integration dysfunctions?

Sensory integration dysfunction is not confined to any specific population group. It can occur in children and adults – regardless of age or levels of cognitive ability. It is particularly common in the learning-disabled population however and frequently found in children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD)


What is sensory integration therapy?

Jean Ayres, an inspirational American occupational therapist working in the 1960’s to 90’s, was the first person to recognise that these subtle sensory integration dysfunctions were often present in children with learning difficulties and realize that this population group would not learn successfully or develop to their full potential unless these dysfunctions were accurately identified and skilfully addressed. Over time she developed this original premise into a therapy concept, known as sensory integration therapy. Today this treatment approach is used by physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists across the world to provide learning-disabled children with sensory-rich learning opportunities.


Sensory Diets

We have been using Sensory Diets for students at Woodlands School since 2010 when all of our staff were trained by Julia Dyer


Process for devising Sensory Diets

1. Potential sensory integration concerns are identified and documented

2. Background information is gathered (subjective assessment)

3. Sensory integration and praxis issues are identified and documented using a variety of assessment tools (objective assessment)

4. Risk assessments are completed

5. Goals of treatment are set

6. A therapeutic action plan is formulated

7. Suitable outcome measures are selected to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention and measure change in levels of functional ability over time

8 Sensory strategies incorporated into curriculum planning

Depending on a student’s identified sensory profile, intervention may focus on one or more of the sensory systems and include activities for:

• Calming

• Arousing/ Alerting

• Organising

• De-sensitising


Example of a sensory diet at Woodlands


Pressure ‘n’ Touch

Heavy Work

Oral Motor


These activities most often alert and organise the mind and body, but they can also over alert.

To avoid over alerting, follow up with Pressure or Heavy Work activities

These activities calm and settle the child’s nervous system and behaviour. Use as a get ready, regrouping, or transition strategy. Often used after Motion activities

These activities involve muscle effort. The effort and resistance activities of push, pull and pressure are calming, and the motion is alerting

These activities both alert and calm the child helping to organise the mind and body. They will also help the child to listen and focus. These activities are easy to forget.

The activities calm the sensory sensitive child by reducing the sensory overload. Retreat activities help create a quiet, less overwhelming environment.







Suggested Daily Input

5 minutes before morning group.

5 minutes before the start of the second lesson.



Suggested Daily Input

Frequent short sessions throughout the day.

After movement.

After lunchtime play.

Suggested Daily Input

Suggested Daily Input

Morning – on arrival



Afternoon – approx. 2pm

Suggested Daily Input








Activity Options

Bouncing on Therapy ball


Running and jumping.



Activity Options

Hugs, squeezes


Activity Options


Activity Options



Chew pendant


Activity Options