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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Sawchuk

Functions of Behavior - Part 4


For some children, problem behaviors arise due to the need for sensory stimulation. Problem behaviors vary in intensity, ranging from repetitive tapping leg, to spinning in circles, to self-injurious behaviors (ex: head banging) to achieve a sensory need. It’s important to understand that many of these behaviors are considered automatic and emphasis should be placed on meeting those sensory needs in a more effective or appropriate manner.

What can we do about this? Provide a replacement behavior or redirect.

  1. Validate & Replace - It’s important to validate the need for sensory input, while also providing a tangible replacement. For example, “I see you need to chew on something, here is a chewy ring instead of your shirt.”

    1. Expecting a child to halt all sensory seeking behaviors is only temporary, they will eventually engage in it again. This is why replacement behaviors are so important!

  2. Structured Sensory Time - Provide structured opportunities to engage in sensory regulation. Make sure to set aside time to move the body physically (ex: jumping, spinning, deep body squeezes) or use of sensory objects (ex: fidgets, putty, soft textures).

    1. This could involve scheduling 10 minutes of sensory time before homework, after lunch, or when noticing sensory seeking behaviors.

  3. Praise - Make sure to acknowledge their ability to ask for or independently use alternative sensory uses, or the ability to transition to a different task or activity.


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