Sensory modulation strategies, a component of sensory integration intervention, help improve behavior and reduce the need for harsh discipline in schools. Sensory modulation strategies teach students to be aware of and regulate their arousal levels for appropriate behavior and learning. Sensory modulation strategies are particularly useful for students with behavioral, mental health, trauma history, developmental, and/or sensory processing challenges.
Sensory modulation strategies help students adjust their arousal level for improved self-control. They learn to notice whether their arousal level is low (they feel numb), medium (just right for learning) or high (too hyper to pay attention) and use coping strategies to adjust their energy level.
Most students learn best when they’re in a quiet alert state rather than overly relaxed or excited.
Maintaining appropriate arousal levels also involves social skills, as different levels of arousal are expected during class and at recess. Occupational and mental health therapists can team with teachers to use sensory modulation strategies with students who have self-control challenges. Clinical research shows that sensory modulation strategies can improve behavior and reduce the need for restraints and other harsh discipline methods.
Sensory modulation strategies are especially affective for students with severe behavioral, mental health, trauma history, developmental, and/or sensory processing challenges. Students are taught to identify when they begin experiencing environmental and body triggers to use their most affective sensory coping strategies
If sensory modulation or behavioral interventions alone are not working, combining both strategies using picture reminders can be helpful.
Busy teachers may sometimes attend to disruptive and ignore appropriate behavior, and reversing this can make a huge difference. For some students, individual sessions with an occupational and/or mental health therapist are used to teach sensory modulation, while others learn sensory modulation strategies by therapists working with the teacher or leading groups. Sensory modulation strategies can include teaching students to do pushups for self calming when they’re hyper or going to a quiet area for a few minutes to calm down so they won’t misbehave and are able to learn. Therapists need to try various strategies with students to find what works best. Sensory modulation strategies in schools may involve the use of a quiet area in the class room,
a sensory coping room
or bulletin boards reminding students of class rules and sensory coping strategies. Working together therapists and teachers can use sensory modulation strategies to improve their students’ behavior and learning.
Chalmers, A., Harrison, S., Mollison, K., Molloy, N., & Gray, K. (2012). Establishing sensory-based approaches in mental health inpatient care: a multidisciplinary approach.Australasian Psychiatry, 20(1), 35-39. www.rompa.com/media/free-resources/establishing_sensory-based_approaches_in_mental_health.pdf