In the 1970s Carl Delecato (in his work as an educator with kids who had all kinds of difficulties) had an inspired hunch. Maybe the unusual mannerisms and difficult behaviours that got 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 ‘stereotypies’ in autism.
Carl described both children whose sensory system worked too well and those whose sensory systems didn’t work we’ll enough. The first kind of problem tended to lead to ‘sensory avoiding’ behaviour and the second ‘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?
It starts by profiling the person’s sensory preferences (the activities which have 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:-
• getting control of the physical and sensory environment and removing orreducing the sensory aversives
• Working with the person to help them take control. We can remove some sensory triggers but sometimes, in fact quite a lot of the time, we just can’t stop bad stuff happening.
Positive Sensory Programmes consist of our ideas on how we’ll use what we know about a persons sensory preferences or interests to
• motivate and reward
• help them learn
• have fun or relax
• build a relationship