FAB “Functionally Alert Behavior” Strategies promoting body scheme can improve behavior in children and adolescents with sensory processing, developmental, learning, and mental health challenges. Improving body scheme is particularly important for children and adolescents because it impacts the development of their behavior and learning. Improving body scheme can also promote self-esteem, organization, and motor planning skills.
Body scheme difficulties can negatively impact behavior and learning skills. Although body scheme difficulties are commonly described in children and adolescents with trauma histories, inappropriate behavior, and psychiatric disorders limited attention is given to body scheme by mental health therapists. The sensory integration frame of reference provides body scheme assessment and intervention strategies (see Sensory Discrimination and Praxis Disorders in my previous blog post Making Sense out of Sensory Integration). Sensory Integration, pressure touch, and basic mindfulness are combined in FAB “Functionally Alert Behavior” Strategies to improve body scheme.
Sensory integration intervention is not a school service, so any use of the sensory integration frame of reference by school occupational, speech, or physical therapists must be directed toward school goals required for the child to benefit from their learning program. An examples of a school occupational therapy goal for a first grader that includes intervention to improve body scheme is: Given repeated verbal prompts as needed the student will maintain a seated position for ten consecutive minutes on 4 out of 5 occasions (e.g., will not fall or get out of their seat with out permission). It is important to measure the child’s baseline skills so achievement of school therapy goals shows the child’s improved learning and behavioral functioning.
The following pictures were taken of a group of kindergarten age children with a diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder who had body scheme and motor planning challenges. I led the group assisted by the children’s wonderful parents as well as undergraduate occupational therapy students. Fun activities were included involving child-directed movement combining graded touch (tactile), deep pressure (proprioception), and vestibular (movement) sensory input.
Strategies for repeated use at home and school are particularly helpful to improve body scheme. FAB Strategies that promote body scheme include: Touch vibration on the Back and Arms, FAB Pressure Touch, Back X, Spine crawl, Nose breathe, Mindful clock, Bird, Tense & relax, Focus on feet, Body scan, Focus on palms, and Wall pushups. The picture below shows an elementary student using my occupational therapy bulletin board to feel his palms while doing wall pushups.
FAB Strategies intervention including Sensory Integration, Pressure Touch, and Mindfulness activities can improve body scheme for improved behavioral, self-esteem, organizational, and motor planning skills.
Ayres, A. J. (1985). Developmental dyspraxia and adult-onset apraxia. Torrance, CA: Sensory Integration International.
Flook, L., Smalley, S., Kitil, M., Galla, B., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., Ishijima, E., Kasari, C. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26, 70-95.
Silva, L. M., Schalock, M. (2013). Prevalence and significance of abnormal tactile responses in young children with Autism. North American Journal of Medicine and Science, 6(3), 121-127.