How can a Sensory Assessment help your child?
At Journey we know that figuring out exactly what type of approach will work best for your child with a disability or mental health concern can be overwhelming. That is why we had our resident Occupational Therapist (OT), Sinéad O’Grady, put together this quick info sheet to help you understand if a sensory assessment and sensory intervention may be the right choice for you.
What is sensory processing?
Sensory processing refers to the way we take in and use information from our senses to help us to know what is happening in our world and how to respond. Our senses are our touch, hearing, taste, smell, movement and balance. We all receive and use sensory information differently; it is a very individual experience. This is called our sensory profile. The way we process, or make sense of sensory information, strongly influences our ability to learn new information, to perform activities and to participate in activities with other people.
Children and young people living with a disability or mental illness can often process sensory information differently to other people. For example, a child may react strongly and negatively to bright lights and noise. Or, they may be sensitive to touch, have an aversion to foods with certain textures, or not like wearing certain clothes that are too tight or too loose.
Some children with sensory processing issues may experience behavioural difficulties, unexplained temper tantrums and could develop compulsive behaviours as a way of coping with the world around them. A sensory assessment can identify how a child’s behaviour is affected by their ability to process their senses.
What is a Sensory Assessment?
The aim of a sensory assessment is to help young people and their caregivers, gain a better understanding about how they take in and use sensory information. It provides a comprehensive overview of someone’s sensory profile, that is, the way that they experience and process each of the different senses. The assessment includes a detailed discussion and practical assessment of how sensory difficulties are impacting on young people’s behaviour, learning and participation in everyday life, and provides reasons why this could be.
Who completes a sensory assessment?
A sensory assessment is usually completed by a suitably skilled Occupational Therapist with the young person, alongside their parents, caregivers, teachers, or any other relevant members of their care team.
What does a sensory assessment involve?
The structure of a sensory assessment can depend on the young person, their caregivers and their circumstances, preferences and available funding. However, the usual steps of a Sensory Assessment include:
- Initial consultation: A meeting to introduce the process for the sensory assessment and obtain information about the young person, their environments, and their daily activities.
- Administration of the assessment questionnaire: A sensory assessment questionnaire is then completed with the young person and/or their caregiver, depending on the young person’s age and needs. The questionnaire is based on a lot of evidence about the way that children and young people process sensory information and can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to complete.
- Observation: The Occupational Therapist will usually also complete one or more observations of the child or young person within their home, school, work, or leisure environment. This helps to gain further understanding of the behaviours and movements the young person shows in response to the sensory input they are receiving from their environment.
What happens after the sensory assessment is completed?
Once the Sensory Assessment is complete, the Occupational Therapist will use the information gathered to write up a report and make tailored recommendations. Results and recommendations would be discussed in detail with you, so that they are easily understood and include practical ways that you or your child’s supports can start using the strategies straight away. Depending on your situation, the work of the Occupational Therapist following the assessment may include:
- Education for the young person, caregivers, support workers and/or school regarding their sensory profile results and recommendations.
- Making adaptations to the home or school environment to reduce sensory triggers for the young person.
- Developing a ‘Sensory Diet’, which involves developing individually tailored strategies to use throughout the day to meet the child’s specific needs.
- Trialling and purchasing of appropriate sensory equipment and tools.
We hope you found this factsheet useful. If you would like to make a referral simply follow the referral link of our website at https://www.jhs.org.au/refer/ or for more information, please contact us at Journey Health Solutions on 1300 00 164.