Building a Sensory Routine

As humans, we thrive on routine. It helps us create expectations and build habits. When things go awry in life, a routine can help us find our way back. This is exponentially valuable for individuals with sensory differences. By building routines throughout the day, these individuals can become more equipped to take on challenging situations or stimuli. It only makes sense that sensory motor activities have a routine too.

Often, these activities are designed to either fulfill demanding sensory needs or expand sensitive ones. Creating a routine may help to enhance the participant’s ability to differentiate between sensory stimuli, identify appropriate responses, improve daily participation, and ultimately boost quality of life.

Our Golden Rule

If you’re setting up or facilitating sensory motor activities with an individual, we have one simple rule – pay attention! It is crucial to communicate before, during, and after any activity. Be engaged, build trust, and adapt quickly if something isn’t working.

Phases of a Sensory Routine

A typical outline of a routine has 3 parts, each taking 5-15 minutes:

1. Preparation

Sets the tone for the session, gain attention, and get physically moving. Use this time to explain the session layout, set expectations, and open up honest communication. Keep it light, easy, and fun to encourage engagement!

2. Stimulation

This is the main portion of the session where you work towards any established goals such as increasing energy, building postural strength, or challenging sensitivities. Understanding the individual’s sensory profile  as well as the basics of the vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile sensory systems will help you feel equipped and ready to adapt.

3. Cool Down

This phase provides time to “reset” before moving on with the day. This is especially crucial if the stimulation phase was particularly active or challenging. Don’t skip this phase – it is better to shorten the main activities than to omit the cool down and risk adverse effects of the sensory session.

Final Notes

It will take some trial and error to find what activities work and which nuances (like timing or body positions) can make the difference. Stay patient and remember - we're in this journey together to Find Focus through Movement. If you have more questions, please contact us.

This article should not be used in lieu of a professional's assessment or diagnosis. The information provided is for general information and understanding only.

Author Credit

Resources: Casey Dravis, OTD, OTR/L
Writer: Katie Johnson, SRx Brand Manager and Special Needs Parent
Reviewer: Kevin Anderson, PhD, OTR/L, ATP

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