In the 1970s Carl Delacato (in his work as an educator with children who had all kinds of difficulties) had an inspired hunch. Maybe the unusual mannerisms and difficult behaviours with the label of ‘autisms’ were nothing of the kind – they might just be better defined as ‘sensoryisms’. Convinced that the prevailing idea that autism was caused by parenting problems (refrigerator mothers) was nonsense, he set about proving that autism had a biological origin and that sensory sensitivity/sensory processing problems lay behind the well documented ‘stereotypes’ in autism.
Carl described children whose sensory systems worked too well and those whose sensory systems didn’t work well enough. The first kind of problem tended to lead to ‘sensory avoiding’ behaviour and the second to ‘sensory seeking’ behaviour.
So, how does all this help with a Sensory Plan that guides family members and practitioners in the direction of positive support for a child or adult on the spectrum?
Let’s find out…
What do we do first?
Start by profiling the person’s sensory preferences (the activities with a positive sensory pay-off) and listing the sensory aversives (the things the person can’t tolerate or are triggers for difficult behaviours).
The next bit is about what we do with that information. There are two parts to this: Sensory Support and a Positive Sensory Programme.
Sensory Support consists of:
- Taking control of the physical and sensory environment and removing or reducing the sensory aversives.
- Working with the person to help them take control. We can remove some sensory triggers, but we can’t always stop the bad stuff from happening.
Positive Sensory Programmes use what we know about a person’s sensory preferences or interests to:
- Motivate and reward them
- Help them to learn
- Have fun or relax
- Build a relationship