Behavioral & Sensory Strategies for Young Students

Theraband chairarm rotation

Integrated sensory processing and behavioral strategies improve the behavior of pre-school and kindergarten students. Combining Positive Behavioral Support and sensory processing adaptive equipment and techniques can help regular and special education students behave better, pay attention, and learn. A helpful initial resource for pre-school and kindergarten teachers is which suggests behavioral strategies and classroom adaptations.


The PBIS World website helps pre-school and kindergarten teachers identify the most problematic student behaviors. PBIS World then provides a menu of appropriate Tier 1 regular classroom, Tier 2 small group, and Tier 3 individual interventions to choose from for improving behavior. Free data tracking forms are also provided for monitoring the effectiveness of the selected behavioral interventions.


Special education teachers as well as occupational, speech-language, or mental health therapists can assist teachers in identifying the best Tier 1 interventions for a specific student, and can assist the teacher by providing Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions within and outside the classroom. It is important for team members to provide consistency between Tier 1, 2, and 3 interventions so students are not confused by varied rules and procedures.  Tier 1 Preschool and Kindergarten classroom interventions combining sensory processing and positive behavioral support are suggested using the FAB Strategies Form.


While some special education faculty, behaviorists, pediatricians, and occupational therapists object to combining behavioral and sensory strategies it makes sense to combine these clinically proven interventions before using medications.


  1. As an OT in the school system, I’m constantly toting the benefits of sensory strategies to meet behavioral issues, which usually stem from a maladaptive response to sensory issues, difficulty learning, inconsistent structure and disciplinary plan in the home, all the things you stated.
    What do you recommend for the child who recognizes all these efforts of the adult and becomes manipulative and would rather spend most of the day between hostile outbursts and the sensory calming corner to avoid academic challenges or any situation where they are expected to follow structure and group? I really see the value in consistency, individualized plan and creating a community classroom where rules are established by group and respect is mutual, but what happens when this is not enough? Your input is welcome!

    1. The sensory quiet corner needs to be used pro-actively – so scheduled in the day. If work can’t be completed in the classroom, there needs to be an alternative quiet work area for work completion. Earned rewards for completing work appropriately will reinforce this.
      I’ve seen kids like this respond well to very natural consequences. They throw paper, they are required to practice placing paper on the desk for a period of time. They kick a desk walking by, they are required to practice walking without kicking. Sometimes these kids have inadvertently been given too much control at home and it is important to help parents understand and use the same natural consequences. Your teacher told me you were “too tired to do your math paper at school – now you need to do the paper at home and go to bed a half hour earlier so you won’t be “too tired” tomorrow. Parents out of concern about sensory sensitivities, have catered to the child – choosing what they want to do for the family outing, etc. and over time the child becomes used to getting their way. When they are not treated the same in school they act out and become manipulative – a natural drive for the control they now feel entitled to.

  2. These photos are great! I work with special needs children, so I understand how important these interventions can be for children with autism and other special needs. I especially like the photo of the white board infront of the child doing work…it can be so hard for children to focus when they are being stimulated visually by the environment in the classroom!

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