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  • auditory sensitivity
  • auditory seeking
  • visual sensitivity
  • visual seeking
  • touch sensitivity
  • touch seeking
  • oral seeking
  • deep pressure seeking
  • movement seeking

When choosing a Tool or Strategy, always consider: 

Intensity: how intense does the sensory tool need to be in order to be effective.

  • Child A likes to chew on one piece of gum to stay regulated while
  • Child B needs 3 pieces of gum with cinnamon flavour to get the same regulating effect

Frequency: how often does the child need sensory breaks/tools throughout the day.

  • Child A needs to move every 15 minutes to stay regulated while
  • Child B needs to move every few hours to stay regulated

Duration:  how long does the sensory tool need to be used.

  • Child A needs 5 minutes of heavy work to get regulated while
  • Child B needs 20 minutes of heavy work to get the same regulating effect

Auditory Sensitivity

  • Puts hands on ears to block out noise
  • Jumps, startles or reacts negatively to loud or unexpected noises
  • Talks louder compared to others, especially in a noisy environment
  • Gets overly excited or overwhelmed when it is loud in the classroom
  • Dislikes/avoids/shies away from assemblies, gym time, group discussions
  • Has difficulty focusing in a noisy classroom
  • Asks others to be quiet
  • Try:

  • Have noise cancelling headphones or earplugs available to use as needed
  • Use white noise during independent seat work i.e. fan, metronome at 60 beats/minute, rain sound
  • Play calm music during independent seatwork and when children walk in from recess
  • Close the classroom doors, as hallway noises can be very distracting and overwhelming
  • Encourage a period of complete silence for independent seat work before allowing group/partner discussions
  • Ensure that students know ahead of time what activity they can do once they finish their work to avoid increasing chatter and distractions i.e. colour by number, read, word search etc.
  • Allow chewing gum or eating a snack during independent seatwork – the jaw movements associated with chewing help to muffle noises
  • Pre-warn of loud noises i.e. bell, fire alarm, assemblies
  • Bring weighted item (lap pad, shoulder pad) to assemblies
  • Participate in movement break – heavy work before assemblies or noisy activities
  • Use a noise meter to maintain an acceptable noise level during free play  App: Too Noisy  Website;
  • Allow student to transition before/after others to decrease noisy situations – transition into the classroom from recess, transition to the coat room/lockers
  • Use an FM system to help muffle surrounding noises

Auditory Seeking

  • Makes noises for the sake of noise
  • Talks continuously and often interrupts  
  • Often tries to engage others in conversations, even during quiet times
  • Makes noise with objects i.e. bangs objects, taps pencil
  • Often misses verbal directions
  • Does not always respond when name is called


  • Allow chewing gum or eating a snack during independent seatwork, circle time, instructional time – the jaw movements associated with chewing creates deep pressure and can organize the sensory systems
  • A water bottle that necessitates sucking – try ice-cold water or lemon/lime water
  • Play calm music during independent seatwork
  • Allow own earphones with music during independent seat work
  • Have student repeat instructions
  • Have classroom participate in movement break – heavy work several times daily.
  • Use an FM system to help focus attention on the teacher’s voice
  • Use weighted lap pad or shoulder pad during independent seatwork or circle time

Visual Sensitivity

  • Is easily distracted by others walking around the classroom
  • Notices small visual details
  • Gets discouraged or overwhelmed by a busy worksheet
  • Asks to turn off fluorescent lights and prefers to be in the dark


  • Sit student at the front of the classroom to minimize visual distractions
  • Use a study carrel for independent seatwork
  • Have students in the class lift their hand up to ask for help or to signal that their work is complete instead of going to the teacher’s desk in order to minimize movements around the room
  • Decrease the amount of information on worksheets or spread it across both sides of the page
  • Allow student to wear a baseball cap to reduce surrounding visual input
  • Turn off fluorescent lights if possible and use natural light
  • Provide a reading window to reduce visual distractions on a page
  • Use a virtual aquarium on the Avervision to provide a visual calming tool

Visual Seeking

  • Often looks around the room to notice the action
  • Seeks bright colours and patterns
  • Often leaves items blank on a worksheet even though he/she is fully capable of answering that question.


  • Sit student at the back of the room to provide necessary visual input
  • Suggest that student use a highlighter to outline all of the questions on a worksheet so that they don’t miss any
  • Read Search and Find books (i.e. Where’s Waldo) during free time or transitions times
  • Use colours (crayons, pencils) on worksheets as much as possible i.e. to find patterns in spelling words
  • Use different colour paper for worksheets
  • Use a virtual aquarium on the Avervision to provide a calming visual experience

Touch Sensitivity - Tactile Defensiveness

  • Jumps, startles or reacts negatively to unexpected touch
  • Does not like to get hands dirty/messy i.e. finger painting, food, dirt
  • May be bothered by clothing, tags, seams in socks, mittens etc.
  • Shies away from group activities i.e. gym games, sitting at circle


  • Avoid touching the student unexpectedly, especially if approaching from behind
  • Deep pressure touch (firm hand on the shoulder) is less threatening than a soft touch
  • Respect their need to wash their hands or to avoid messy play
  • Use heavy work jobs throughout the school day to help maintain a calm level of alertness
  • Use deep pressure tools throughout the day to help maintain a calm level of alertness
  • Consider allowing student to wear the hood from their hoody - it is often used as a protective strategy from unexpected touch
  • Crocs or slippers may be an acceptable alternative to wearing shoes in the classroom
  • Be aware that tags in clothing, seams in socks, mittens/gloves and/or certain clothing textures may be triggers.  You can help by offering a deep pressure rub of the hands/feet or by guiding them to rub the area themselves (i.e. rub the hands before putting on mittens, rub the feet before putting on shoes).
  • Position the child’s desk at the back of the classroom, on the side of the classroom door or alternatively at the front of the classroom
  • Because line-ups can be perceived as threatening, have the child hold the door or give the child the opportunity to be 1st or last in line
  • Vanilla or lavender smells can be calming
  • Use relaxation breaks and movement breaksdeep pressure throughout the day

Touch Seeking

  • Often touches or grabs objects even if it does not belong to him/her
  • Often touches others
  • Often fiddles with objects


  • Fidget tools – Ensure a frequent rotation of fidget tool so that the brain does not get habituated to one strategy. 
  • Use movement breaksdeep pressure to help with body awareness and organizing the sensory systems
  • Have him/her write using a vibrating pen
  • Have student rub lotion on hands and arms during transition
  • Use deep pressure tools throughout the day
  • Have him/her sit on his/her hands during circle time to provide deep pressure
  • Use manipulatives during lessons – counters, Popsicle sticks etc.
  • Have the class practice letter formation/spelling words on each other’s palm or back
  • *Novelty is key for sensory seekers.  Their brain quickly gets habituated to a specific strategies/tool and so it may seem as if the tool is no longer working.  Rotate through strategies/tools to maintain effectiveness.

Oral Seeking

  • Often chews on non-edible objects – clothing, pencils, toys
  • Puts everything in mouth
  • Constantly snacking or saying is hungry


  • Allow chewing gum with clear rules and expectations – See handout
  • Allow snacks in the classroom for independent seat work and/or instructional time
  • Try Chewelery – district OTs can provide you with this tool – please email your request
  • Ice cold water in water bottle
  • *Note that K-1 age level students have molars growing in and may seek to chew to ease the discomfort

Deep Pressure Seeking

  • Often leans and/or bumps into furniture or others
  • Uses excessive amount of force unnecessarily – i.e. when playing tag, when giving hugs
  • Pushes hard on pencil, even to the extent of making holes in paper
  • Stomps feet when walking
  • Falls to the ground instead of gently sitting down
  • Enjoy deep pressure like tight bear hugs and/or rough housing
  • Enjoys crashing
  • Often in other people’s space


  • Encourage use of deep pressure tools – weighted lap pad, weighted shoulder pad
  • Use seating option that provides deep pressure for circle time – i.e. Bilibo seat – See flexible seating options
  • Use flexible seating options that provide deep pressure for independent seatwork –  i.e. lying on tummy, bean bag chair, hamper
  • Assign Heavy work jobs throughout the day
  • Participate in classroom movement breaks – deep pressure during the day
  • Allow chewing gum with clear rules and expectations – See handout
  • If comfortable, offer bear hugs or side bear hugs throughout the day
  • Add an extra book to student’s backpack for extra weight and deep pressure

Movement Seeking

  • Has difficulty sitting still
  • Often finds excuses to get up from chair i.e. sharpen pencil or simply to roam around the room
  • Always on the go
  • Fidgets with hands or feet
  • Runs instead of walk
  • Enjoys spinning


  • Movement  Breaks – use both alerting and heavy work movement breaks
  • Alternate seating options – stand up desk, Sit Fit cushion, ball chair – vary seating option throughout the day.  For example, complete Math at stand up desk and then sit on ball chair for reading.  Novel strategies will help keep the brain alert. 
  • Attach stretchy band to the legs of the chair
  • Allow colouring/doodling during instruction – have student repeat instructions to ensure understanding.
  • Give extra movement opportunities such as handing out supplies/papers
  • Allow snacks during instructional time and/or independent seatwork
  • Use fidget tools
  • Encourage movement during brainstorming or learning new ideas i.e. walk and talk
  • Use manipulatives i.e. playdough/scrabble times to practice spelling words, Popsicle sticks/counters for Math

*Provide movement when the child needs it to enable performance rather than making it contingent on performance.  These students need recess.