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Sensory processing

Supporting children and young people with sensory processing differences

Overview

Occupational Therapists (often known as OTs) work with people to help them do the things they need and want to do in their daily lives. These things are called our occupations. For children and young people their main occupations are self-care, play and being able to access education and learning typically in school.

Occupational Therapists assess children’s skills for completing their daily activities. They may provide advice and support to allow the child or young person to take part in these activities in meaningful ways.

Differences in processing sensory information may be one factor which contributes to a child having difficulties with their everyday occupations. Children’s Occupational Therapists have the skills to identify an individual’s sensory strengths and differences and their impact on daily activities as part of their assessment of a person’s occupational performance.

Whilst additional training is available, there is no specified level of qualification in sensory processing/integration specified or expected of occupational therapists by the Health and Care Professions Council (the regulator of occupational therapists in the UK) to assess or work with sensory processing differences.

There are many ways of assessing a child’s skills, and we will always try to do this in a fun way which puts the young person at the centre of what we do. The role of an Occupational Therapist is to ensure our assessment is occupational-focused, rather than sensory processing-focused. This is in keeping with what our governing body states:

Occupational therapists should maintain their occupational focus. Sensory issues must be considered in the context of the person’s occupational engagement and performance within relevant environments

Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) 2021

Last reviewed: November 30, 2023 by Sophie

Next review due: May 30, 2024

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