What is involved in sensory assessment by occupational therapists?

A sensory assessment conducted by an occupational therapist is a comprehensive process aimed at understanding how an individual processes and responds to sensory stimuli. The assessment helps identify specific sensory patterns, challenges, and strengths, guiding the development of an individualized intervention plan. Here are the key components involved in a sensory assessment conducted by an occupational therapist:

  1. Clinical Observation:
    • The occupational therapist observes the individual’s behaviour in various environments, noting reactions to sensory stimuli.
  2. Interviews and Case History:
    • The therapist gathers information through interviews with the individual, parents, caregivers, or relevant professionals to understand the individual’s history, preferences, and daily challenges.
  3. Standardised Assessments:
    • Occupational therapists may use standardised tools and questionnaires to gather quantifiable data on sensory processing. Examples include the Sensory Profile and Sensory Processing Measure.
  4. Sensory Processing Patterns:
    • The therapist assesses how the individual responds to different types of sensory input, including visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory stimuli.
  5. Sensory Modulation:
    • Evaluation of the individual’s ability to modulate responses to sensory stimuli, including assessing for hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness), hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness), or sensory-seeking behaviours.
  6. Sensory Discrimination:
    • Assessment of the individual’s ability to accurately perceive and interpret different sensory stimuli, distinguishing between various sensations.
  7. Postural Control and Motor Planning:
    • Evaluation of how sensory processing impacts postural control, balance, and motor planning, which are essential for daily activities.
  8. Self-Regulation Abilities:
    • Assessment of the individual’s ability to self-regulate in response to sensory challenges, including the development of coping strategies.
  9. Functional Impact:
    • The therapist examines how sensory sensitivities impact the individual’s daily functioning, including self-care, social interactions, and participation in activities at home, school, or work.
  10. Environmental Analysis:
    • The therapist considers the individual’s environment to identify potential sensory triggers and recommends modifications to create a more supportive setting.

After completing the assessment, the occupational therapist works with the individual and their support network to develop an individualised intervention plan. This plan often includes specific activities and strategies to address sensory challenges, promote self-regulation, and enhance overall participation in daily life. Ongoing collaboration with other professionals, such as educators and healthcare providers, may also be part of the intervention process.