Sensory-Motor Prep

UDL 1.1 UDL 3.4

Sensory-motor prep activities can help grease the wheels of learning, especially for students who have problems in sensory processing and/or motor planning. In addition to supporting the development of motor skills, sensory-motor prep can help students understand two dimensional information and grasp abstract concepts by building neural pathways that improve sensory discrimination, body schema, spatial sense and movement awareness. Having these basics strengthened serves as a more substantial foundation from which students can approach more abstract information and make associations. For example, having a better sense of his or her own body in space supports grasping geometric shapes and space. Activities include movement (vestibular sensation), muscle and joint sensation (proprioception), touch (tactile exploration) and eye movement control (oculomotor coordination). Some of these activities can be incorporated right into lessons. OT BACKGROUND & PERSPECTIVE: [[|Sensory Discrimination]] [[|Motor Planning]]

Implementation Tips

Be very careful if you are using vestibular (movement) activities, especially spinning because they can lead to over stimulation including light headedness, nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, sweating. Some of the other activities, such as jumping on a trampoline can also be very stimulating, but don't have the same danger of a sympathetic nervous system response the way spinning does. If you suspect a student needs strong sensory stimulation, consult with your occupational therapist.
Whole Class
Many of these activities will be beneficial for students without sensory processing or motor planning difficulties as well as those with, and can be done in groups, or even the whole class.
Pre-K & Kindergarten
Pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners (and many first graders) are developmentally sensory-motor learners. This type of active learning that generates body sensation and spatial awareness is an important ingredient in curriculum at these grade levels.


Build Body in Space and Movement Awareness
Jumping, vigorous clapping, wall push ups, playing catch with a large therapy ball or weighted beanbags provide strong touch and proprioceptive "input"; and rapid changes in head position (e.g. alternating touching toes and reaching for the ceiling), swinging, spinning (e.g. sit and spin for younger students, or on a swivel chair for older ones) give intense vestibular input; and activities that require crossing over the midline of the body such as [[|cross crawls]]. These types of sensation can "prime the pump" to help students who tend to have difficulty with coordination, sequencing, and accuracy due to problems in motor planning.
Build Tactile Discrimination
Offer many opportunities for students with poor fine motor skills, but adequate strength, to explore a wide variety of textures with their hands. Tactile discrimination, along with strength, motor planning, visual-motor ability is a component for developing good manual dexterity.
Teach Spatially
Use the space in your classroom, the school building and grounds; and moving students through space to help develop spatial awareness. For example, obstacle courses are a great activity for teaching young students about spatial concepts (e.g. over, under, in, out, beside, through, etc.). Have older students learning about geometry, measuring, geography, migration, etc., explore and define space using props such as ropes or measuring tapes, color plastic markers (circles or other shapes), colored tape, floor tiles, their own bodies. For example, two students can simulate a compass scribing a circle, and learn about radius length by each holding the end of a rope with one standing on one spot rotating as necessary while the other walks around keeping the rope taut.
Train Eye Muscles
Support students who have poor oculomotor control with activities such as [[|Infinity Walk]], activities that involve targeting (e.g. throwing beanbag into a bucket or tennis balls onto velcro target), or even just throwing and catching a ball or beanbag. You will need to consult your occupational therapist or the [[|behavioral optometrist]] if your student has seen one, to make sure your activities match your students' needs.
Build Strength and Coordination
Specialized exercises for [[|postural or core strength]] to support endurance for upright sitting can include common activities or errands, such as carrying appropriately heavy objects (e.g. box of books or supplies), holding open heavy hall doors with extended arms, pushing or pulling against resistance, tug-a-war, climbing structures. Building hand strength can involve [[|pre-writing hand and finger warm-ups]] and/or an ongoing hand strengthening program that your occupational therapist can help you develop based on your students' specific needs.

Related Strategies