Classroom Sensory Integration Equipment

This post describes the FAB Procedure for using sensory integration informed adaptive equipment and techniques in the classroom to improve behavior and learning.  Strategies are individualized for regular and special education students with behavioral, developmental, and sensory processing challenges.  The procedure is described sequentially, followed by an example provided in italics.

  1. Choose one goal involving adaptive equipment or techniques to improve the student’s behavior, learning and future.  Collect base line data regarding the frequency of this behavior. 

Sam is an intelligent kindergartener who can not stay seated more than five minutes in December.  He needs to stay seated for fifteen minutes next year to succeed in first grade.  His goal is: Sam will maintain seated attention for fifteen consecutive minutes. 

2. Consider the student’s need for sensory input using the Sensory Profile, an activity analysis, and the FAB Trigger & Coping Forms.

Sam’s scores on the Short Sensory Profile showed definite difference in Underresponsive/Seeks Sensation and Tactile Sensitivity.  Sam’s most effective coping strategies on the FAB Trigger & Coping Forms included theraband exercises.  His activity analysis found Sam kicked his legs and wrapped his feet around the desk while seated.   

  1. Select adaptive equipment or techniques to help achieve the student’s goal.

ChairlegsTherabandTheraband chairarm rotation

Sam was found to enjoy and sit longer given theraband (an exercise band) tied around the legs of his chair.  This allowed Sam to move and provide himself with deep pressure input through his legs while seated.

     4. After getting parent permission, introduce adaptive equipment as well as the rules and expectations for continued use.

Parental permission was obtained and the adaptation was introduced. Sam was told he could use the theraband on his chair if it helped him pay attention while seated as long as he did not untie it or disturb others.  

     5. Reward and monitor progress toward the student’s goal, and modify the plan as needed.

Sam was rewarded with a sticker he could cash in for a prize whenever he sat and paid attention for over fifteen minutes.  Progress was recorded showing increased seated attention, so use of  the adaptation was continued.

The FAB procedure guides the use of sensory processing adaptive equipment and techniques in school, assuring that any adaptations used assist with goal achievement.


Dunn, W. (2007).  Supporting children to participate successfully in everyday life by using sensory processing knowledge.  Infants & Young Children, 20(2), 84-101.  www.sensoryprofile.com

Stahmer, A., Suhrheinrich, J., Reed, S., Schreibman, L., Bolduc, C. (2011).  Classroom Pivotal Response Teaching for children with Autism.  New York, NY: Guilford Press.


Sensory Strategies Improve Learning

Classroom environmental adaptations can enhance behavior and learning.  However, effectively using adaptive equipment and techniques involves more than handing out adaptive equipment.  To improve learning and avoid causing additional classroom management problems it is important to specifically consider how sensory strategies can improve an individual student’s behavior for enhanced learning.SensoryRoom

Sensory Integration and Positive Behavioral Support strategies can be combined to develop effective coping strategies.  The first step is to choose one specific goal involving adaptive equipment and techniques that improves the student’s behavior, learning and future.  Select a goal that is most important for improving behavior and is attainable within six months.  The goal is worded positively and is incompatible with the inappropriate behavior that interferes with learning.

For students who have multiple needs research suggests prioritizing goals that can reduce future school aggression such as: safe hands (no hitting), polite voice (no yelling), as well as increased attention and seated attention.  After the goal is chosen collect base line data on how often the desired behavior occurs.  Use the base line data to refine the goal before choosing adaptive equipment.

Next consideration is given to the student’s specific need for sensory input.  The Sensory Profile and an activity analysis are useful tools for finding effective adaptive equipment and techniques.  The Sensory Profile is a reliable, valid assessment that identifies significantly different sensory behaviors.  If a student’s scores show a definite difference in Sensory Seeking/Low Registration (e.g. a significant difference found in only 2 out of 100 students their age) this provides clues about the sensory input needed.  Sensory processing disorders are complicated, and each student’s individual sensory needs must be addressed.

Next an activity analysis is done to explore the sensory input the student may be getting through the inappropriate behavior, sensory strategies that have helped him in the past, and his favorite activities.  Begin the activity analysis by considering the sensory input the student receives from the problematic behavior (e.g. wiggling his fingers in front of his eyes so frequently that it interferes with learning).  Determine if he is doing this for attention, sensory input, or both.  If he is doing the behavior for sensory input, go where no one will see you and imitate the student’s behavior to determine the sensory input it provides (e.g., finger movement, visual stimulation, or both).

Further assessment for developing coping strategies can be gathered using the FABTriggerCopingForms filled out by the student or parent, who choose on each page the three most frequent situations and body reactions that precede the inappropriate behavior and the most helpful coping strategies for avoiding inappropriate behavior.  This provides greater information regarding the role served by the behavior and possible alternative activities that provide the needed input. INSERT  Choose the adaptive equipment or techniques that will help achieve the student’s goal using information from the SensoryProfile, activity analysis, and FAB Trigger & Coping forms.



Once adaptive equipment or techniques are chosen introduce them in a way that maximizes success.  Given current school inclusion practices many classrooms include students with diverse developmental levels.  It is helpful for teachers and therapists to initially explain to the class that they have different needs and abilities, and will be treated fairly but not equally.  Students will be given different rules, equipment and expectations based on their individual needs.  Adaptive equipment is then tried with individual students “for the day as an experiment that will be continued only if used appropriately to help reach their goal”


Specifying rules for continued use of adaptive equipment or techniques before introducing them avoids potential problems.  Many teachers forbid adaptive strategies because they interfere with classroom management (e.g., forbid gum chewing because gum is stuck on seats; don’t allow fidget toys because students throw or make loud noises with them).  Setting clear limits that adaptive equipment will no longer be used if students break the rules or don’t progress toward their goal make teachers and parents more willing to try them.

It is also important and challenging to be sure parents/guardians approve of adaptive equipment before it is used.  The best way to do this is by discussing it at a parent conference.  When this is not possible write a note describing the goal and reason for the adaptations.  Then ask the parent to sign permission for the goal and specific adaptive equipment to be tried on the bottom of the form.


Finally, additional reinforcement with a sticker chart or other reward is given to the student for making progress towards their goal.  By keeping track of goal progress from the base line, it is easy to show that the plan is working or modify it if it is ineffective.  While this process of combining sensory and behavioral strategies is criticized because it does not show whether the plan worked for sensory or behavioral reasons, it affectively improves student behavior and learning.


Dunn, W. (2007).  Supporting children to participate successfully in everyday life by using sensory processing knowledge.  Infants & Young Children, 20(2), 84-101.  www.sensoryprofile.com

Seifert, K. (2011).  CARE-2 Assessment: Chronic Violent Behavior and Treatment Needs.  Boston, MA: Acanthus Publishing.  www.drkathyseifert.com


Behavioral & Occupational Therapists Working Together

Combining sensory processing and behavioral strategies is useful for students with complex behavior, developmental and sensory processing challenges.  Integrating sensory processing and behavioral strategies is underutilized because of the theoretical rigidity of many behavioral and occupational therapists.  However, I was lucky enough to work with a behavioral therapist who respected occupational therapists, and by working together we helped improve student behavior more easily than either of us could have working alone.   

An effective strategy for helping students who engage in repetitive behavior that interferes with their functioning or is self-injurious is the FAB Sensory Match Strategy.  The FAB Sensory Match Strategy combines offering specific sensory input and reinforcement for decreasing the repetitive behavior. The specific sensory input is developed by first considering the sensory function provided by the repetitive behavior.  If a child repeatedly bangs his hand on a desk, I go where no one will see me and do the behavior myself, considering the sensory input it provides.  Sensory processing knowledge helps in finding activities that will meet the child’s sensory needs so they don’t have to continue engaging in repetitive self-injurious behavior.



Considering the child’s class setting, favorite activities, developmental level, and Sensory Profile I find several activities the student enjoys that provide the sensory input he’s seeking in a more appropriate way (e.g., hand drumming, pounding playdoh). Finally, the behavioral therapist helps me determine how often the child bangs his hand on the desk and the most effective reinforcement strategies.

The child is then offered the sensory activities to do whenever he chooses and is reinforced for going progressively longer periods with out banging his hand on the desk.  Behavioral therapists are trained in gathering and analyzing data to find the best reinforcement and the schedule for using it.  Occupational therapists are taught to use the Sensory Profile and a task analysis to find appropriate activities that provide the sensory input the child is getting from the repetitive behavior.  The behavioral therapist and I would assess the data on the child’s progress to determine if the reinforcement, schedule for providing it, or sensory activities needed to be adjusted.  By combining their forces behavioral and occupational therapists can integrate behavioral and sensory processing strategies to improve student’s behavior and learning.


  Dunn, W. (2007).  Supporting children to participate successfully in everyday life by using sensory processing knowledge.  Infants & Young Children, 20(2), 84-101.

  Mays, N.M., Beal-Alvarez, J., Jolivette, K. (2011).  Using movement-based sensory interventions to address self-stimulatory behaviors in students with Autism.  Teaching Exceptional Children, 43(6), 46-52.

  Rapp, T.R. (2006).  Toward an empirical method for identifying matched stimulation for automatically reinforced behavior: A preliminary investigation.  Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 39, 137-140.