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Q&A: Adult with Sensory Processing Issues


I work with a 26-year-old with sensory processing difficulties. Current resident concerns for this participant are turning lights on and off with his tongue, wiping himself with clothing instead of paper, splashing water from the sink, opening and closing the dryer door, and inability to stay at the dinner table long enough to eat a meal. 

I can fairly easily say that a sensory diet would be a good first start for many of these behaviors whether sensory-seeking or not. I am just starting to train the staff about his sensory diet. This gentleman is low arousal and passive with activity. His sensory diet includes areas of stimulation all around and specifically the areas that he is seeking like visual and oral. Is there any other feedback that you can offer?


I wish I had more experience with the adult DD population because I do get a lot of questions on how to meet their sensory needs. Unfortunately, my experience with adults is limited, but I’m happy to help you brainstorm.

It sounds like you are on the right track with this client. He does sound like a passive UNDER-responder. With the BrainWorks system, this means he needs a lot of GREEN arrow activities available to him. Once you have ample opportunities for his sensory needs to be met worked into his daily routine, you will want to start handling some of those issues behaviorally. For example, he is probably turning the lights on and off with his tongue because this gives him oral and visual input simultaneously. Therefore, we want to make sure his need for visual and oral input is satisfied, but we don’t want him meeting those needs in this way— it’s yucky! I would suggest having him clean the light switch every time he uses his tongue on it. You might even want to make this a long, multistep process, so he will learn quickly that he doesn’t want to have to clean the light switch again! You could have him get a wet washcloth to wipe it down first, dry it with a blue towel, wipe it with a Clorox wipe, dry it with a red towel. You could create a schedule strip showing these steps. Make sure other forms of oral input are always available to him, such as sugar-free candy, flavored toothpaste, vibrating toothbrush, etc. If you see him moving toward the light switch, remind him of other ways to meet that need and what the consequence will be if he licks the light
switch anyway. You might need pictures to communicate this to him.

Please keep me posted and let me know if you find anything that helps.

Best Wishes,