A Resource for Teachers, Clinicians, Parents, and Students by the Brain Injury Association of New York State.
Problem: The student appears to do the first thing that comes to mind; has difficulty delaying gratification; appears to act without thinking.
Cognitive/Self-Regulatory Possibility:
Sensory integration impairment

Step 1: Organize observations relevant to the problematic behavior/issue

  • Who is reporting the problem?
  • When does it occur? (Include time of day, activities etc).
  • Where does it occur?
  • What tends to precede the problematic behavior/issue?
  • What tends to follow the problematic behavior/issue?
  • What is the age and functioning level of the student?
  • Previous documentation/charts?

Step 2: Identify possible contributors to the problematic behavior/issue

In many cases, there are several contributors to the student’s identified problem. These contributors may interact with each other, therefore, it may be necessary to combine tests from different categories of possibilities. The existence of several interacting contributors may become obvious as you proceed through individual intervention experiments.

Sensory integration impairment: Some students may think and act impulsively as result of sensory over-stimulation or sensory under-stimulation.

Relevant observations: Some students tend to engage in impulsive behavior when in the presence of increased environmental stimulation (e.g., flickering lights, high activity levels, unusual or distracting noises, irritating textures). Other students tend to engage in apparently impulsive behavior in an effort to increase stimulation.

Useful experiments for assessment and intervention:

  1. Observe and record the frequency and/or intensity of the problem behavior when a new teaching strategy or support is being implemented versus when it is not being implemented.
  2. Possible exploratory teaching strategies or supports for disorders of sensory stimulation: For students who appear to be over-stimulated: keeping tasks constant, reduce distractions or troubling sensory stimulation as much as possible. For students who appear to be under-stimulated: precede academic tasks with interesting sensory or motor tasks. Alternatively, allow sensory or motor activity during academic tasks (e.g., tap a pencil, hold an object).
  3. If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, then the student’s over- or under-stimulation may be a contributing factor to the student’s problem behavior. Planned management of the sensory environment may be essential.

Possible referrals: School psychologist or behavior specialist for behavioral assessment and behavior management strategies; occupational therapist for sensory evaluation and management strategies.

A program of the Brain Injury Association of New York State, and funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

Copyright 2006, by
The Brain Injury Association of New York State
10 Colvin Avenue, Albany, NY 12206 - Phone: (518) 459-7911 - Fax: (518) 482-5285

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