Document Sample
HAZEL KING Powered By Docstoc
					                                                                             HAZEL KING

                  How might the Sensory Profile of a young person
                     with Autistic Spectrum Disorders provide
                    meaningful information for their educators?


In this assignment I will complete a Sensory Profile for a young person with autism

spectrum disorders (ASD) and assess the extent to which this information might help

me to teach this young person in the future. To illustrate some points I will use

examples from my own practice while focusing on a teenager with a diagnosis of ASD

and a Statement of Special Educational Needs. The teenager in question is a student

in the Post 16 Department of a large school for children and young people with autism.

I am currently in my third year as a teacher in the Post 16 Department, having

previously taught Food Technology in mainstream schools for fourteen years. My only

experience of autism when I started at the school was to have read a mother’s story

about bringing up her son Gabriel (Rankin 2000).

Sensory Integration

Our senses are essential in order for us to function and participate in the world. They

provide us with unique experiences and enable us to interact with those around us. Our

senses help us make sense of our environment and how to respond within it and they

play a significant role in determining our actions. Sensory Integration involves turning

sensations into perception or, more simplistically, it has been referred to as the

organising of sensations so that they may be of use (see Ayres 1979, in Smith Myles et

al, 2000). Various sensory systems in the body send information to the central nervous

system where the information is organised and prioritised. The responses that follow

may take the form of a feeling, a thought, a motor response or any combination. For

those with sensory integration difficulties or differences the responses may not be what

we would usually expect. Having a shower could be extremely painful due to the

sensation of the water on the body (hypersensitivity) or a cut or burn to the hand may

appear to go unnoticed (hyposensitivity). In addition, in rare cases it is possible to

experience a sensory sensation in one sensory system but experience it in a different

system. So, someone may hear a loud noise but respond by covering their eyes. This

sensory condition is known as synaesthesia and while it may cause confusion, those

with this condition will only ever have known the world in this way. It is more likely to

cause problems for parents/carers because they may misinterpret sensory sensitivities.

Student and setting

The subject of this case study is a nineteen-year-old young man, referred to here as

Jake, who currently attends the autism-specific school as a residential student. Jake

joined the school in September 2001 initially with a 38 week residency but for the last 18

months he has had a 50 week residency. Jake can present quite challenging

behaviours and is currently receiving enhanced funding to enable him to be supported

by staff on a ratio of 1:1. Jake will be transitioning to an adult placement when he

leaves school in July 2004. Jake is placed with a group of six students with similar

cognitive ability. They are either non-verbal or use single words and echolalia.

Symbols are consistently in place to augment the student’s understanding and

communicative skills.

There is literature available that describes issues of hyper- and hyposensitivity by

intellectually high functioning people with ASD or Asperger Syndrome (Jackson 2002,

Grandin and Scariano 1996, Sinclair 1998, Williams, 1996 and 1998). But we cannot

assume that these experiences automatically include the experiences of those at the

lower end of the autism spectrum. For highly complex young people such as Jake it is

impossible to really understand their hypersensitivity issues. We cannot perceive how

the blind or deaf experience the world just by closing our eyes or blocking our ears. In

the same way we cannot guess the sensory experiences of someone with ASD. At best

we can only apply our neurotypical observations backed up with extensive reading by

authors who either have ASD, live with someone with ASD or are studying ASD.

Therefore I feel the most effective way to illustrate Jake and his hypersensitivity to

sensory stimuli is to describe some typical events during his school week. I have

chosen to use Jake in my case study not because he displays obvious signs of sensory

sensitivity such as putting his fingers in his ears (although he does sometimes do this)

but because his behaviours are much more difficult for the neurotypical to analyse. In

some instances I am unable to provide a suggested reason for the behaviour. Like

many young people with autism, Jake often presents different behaviours in his home

setting so for the purpose of this assignment I will focus only on the school environment.


Jake always arrives in the classroom with a residential carer in tow. Invariably at this

stage of the day he looks, neurotypically speaking, pensive. He usually stops two or

three times, puts his hand close to his face, cocks his head slightly and looks, without

seeming to look. Eventually Jake will open his link bag and remove his link file, a

system of communication between school and residency. First he throws the file and

then the bag into staff’s outstretched hands. This seems far preferable to Jake than

risking contact with another person’s skin.

During this ‘arrival time’ in the morning the students can make a choice of activity from

the ‘choose cupboard’. Jake will do this independently and sometimes will choose just

to sit. Music is always playing at this time and when he is relaxed, Jake will clap his

hands to the odd beat. Sometimes if he seems tired or pensive on arrival, listening to

Robbie Williams can appear to make him relax and start to clap. When particularly

happy and relaxed Jake’s clapping will be accompanied by jumping, running, slapping

his own body and shouting or making screaming noises, although these are more likely

to be displayed later on in the day and often during music sessions. Unfortunately they

are not welcomed by most of the other students in the group. In her book The Dragons

of Autism, Olga Holland (2003) describes how her son Billy makes noises. As a young

man with ASD Billy says when he doesn’t make a noise he can’t hear himself, ‘It makes

me happy to make a noise’ (p152). Holland’s solution to the noise making was to

suggest to Billy that he use words, poems or songs instead of the noise and this worked

for Billy because he became a ‘good storyteller’. However, for Jake there is no verbal

equivalent that he can use to express himself so instead I try to provide him with

opportunities to make his own noise in an appropriate setting. The other students are

supported with quiet areas that they can use if they need to.

Jake’s usual activities of choice from the ‘choose cupboard’ will be those with many

small pieces so he can lift them up with his fingers and watch (or listen?) to them fall

back on the table. Jake also enjoys colouring. In the 1970’s Eric Schopler of Division

TEACCH in North Carolina developed the TEACCH approach which uses a ‘start’ and

‘finished’ system enabling people with autism to see when a task is complete. Jake

very much needs to feel an activity is finished and this can be seen in the way he

colours. If Jake has ten sheets of paper to colour he will colour all ten before the activity

is finished for him, even if the schedule is moved on and the next activity is announced.

Jake’s method of colouring also seems to have a ‘finished’ element to it. He will colour

one side including going up and down the four edges then turn over and repeat on the

other side. The colouring is quite random, not at all methodical but nevertheless it

follows this pattern. Occasionally he will choose to use a different coloured pen.

At an appropriate point during this ‘choose time’ Jake will spot a member of staff holding

his symbol schedule and he will go to his study area with them and put up the symbols

as they are handed to him. Jake will take each symbol using his thumb and index finger

and hold the furthest corner only. If his anxiety levels rise during this activity, perhaps

due to him feeling his personal space is being encroached upon, then he will bite his

hand and/or bang the wall. Jake will put up the symbols one by one until it comes to the

last two, then he will take both before putting them onto his schedule.

The next activity is a group morning meeting. Although this is a shared group activity

there is differentiation within it so students who can identify the day of the week, the

date etc. are able to do so while other students match the correct symbols. Jake knows

this routine well and usually appears comfortable with it although he will demonstrate

his discomfort by banging or biting his hand. Again this is perhaps due to the interaction

that takes place between him and staff and the fact that staff are asking him to carry out

activities such as matching a symbol or putting a symbol on the board. When Jake is

particularly anxious he might hit others, possibly because he feels they have invaded

his personal space or because he feels they are not doing what they should be doing.

The latter usually applies to students who are smaller than himself. It is almost as if he

feels the need to control or discipline them.

Jake uses symbols throughout his day in Post 16. He has his own symbol schedule

and uses a transition slip whenever he transitions to another area, apart from the toilet

as he will go there independently. Jake knows that when staff say an activity is finished

a symbol needs to be removed from his schedule or from his transition slip although

Jake appears to show no understanding of the symbols themselves. In the classroom

Jake will remove the symbol and drop it into staff’s hands so that it can be put away.

He will not tolerate a ‘finished’ envelope, which the other students use for their symbols

when an activity is finished. Once again, Jake likes things to be completely finished and

out of sight. If another student leaves their transition slip on the table after returning to

the classroom Jake will remove all the symbols and hand them over to staff. Any

symbol attached by velcro will be detached if Jake comes across it. At one time Jake

started to remove the symbols on the class schedule but he now accepts this is

something carried out by staff.

In a similar way to ‘finishing’ symbols Jake also likes other items to be ‘finished’. There

was a time during the summer when any water left in the water jug at dinnertime would

get tipped out the window. Or, if Jake accidentally came across a cup with some drink

left in it he would throw it down the sink (or drink it, depending on its contents). There

have even been one or two occasions when he has tipped coffee or sugar into the bin

from the canisters in the kitchen.

To an observer such as myself, Jake appears at times to be more hypersensitive to

sensory stimuli than at other times. On these occasions his movements tend to be

more idiosyncratic and his reactions less predictable. He will often put his hand close to

his face as if he might be smelling his breath although there are no obvious signs that

he is sniffing. He will also fix his gaze on someone for a few minutes at a time. This

can make some people feel uncomfortable and I always suggest they avoid eye contact

because I assume this would be more comfortable for both Jake and the recipient of his

gaze. This is in contrast to Luke Jackson, a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome, who

describes the gaze of others as being like burning a hole in him (2002).

When transitioning Jake is likely to stop and transfer his weight from one foot to another

while looking out the side of his eye and holding his hand close to his mouth. At times

Jake can also be what I can best describe as especially sensory sensitive. He will get

up from his chair and wipe his leg along the side of the chair or the edge of the table.

Or he will walk towards his study area and wipe his leg on the wall. Frequently there

hasn’t been any actual contact with the object but there is still an obvious need for Jake

to ‘wipe himself off’ these things. This sensitivity extends to people. Jake will take the

hand of someone near him and use it to wipe down his sleeve or leg even though no

physical contact may have been made. If Jake’s shoe laces come undone Jake may

accept help from the member of staff who offers or he may go over to a different

member of staff or he may refuse help altogether. Usually after he has refused he will

accept help later. Perhaps he needs time to process or prepare himself or maybe he

feels it is more on his terms if he accepts the help later. Jake will hold out each

shoelace for staff to tie and will sometimes appear uncomfortable while they are being

tied. Afterwards Jake will invariably take the member of staff’s hands and ‘wipe’ them

on his shoes. When Jake is particularly anxious this may result in staff being hit or self-

injurious behaviour from Jake.

Jake usually enjoys his food and seems to like catering (as long as it is clearly

communicated to him what he is doing) although putting on an apron can cause anxiety.

In a similar vein to the shoe-tying, Jake may accept help from staff, may choose

someone else or will refuse altogether. However, when staff do get handed the apron

ties they need to be quick because Jake walks away while looking over his shoulder in

an attempt to get it over with as quickly as possible! Of course there are easy solutions

even if the underlying cause of anxiety if unclear. Overalls instead of an apron and

velcro trainers encourage independence as well as reducing anxieties. Perhaps for

Jake there is a fear that he will be touched and this might be painful for him or it might

cause him great anxiety because it will leave a feeling or a smell that he does not like.

On other occasions Jake will interact spontaneously with staff, moving close and putting

his face next to theirs while laughing and will rub their nose with his palm or even using

his forearm.

Music sessions usually appear to be very positive activities for Jake. Initially he will sit

still and listen to music quietly then gradually his foot will start to tap, then he will give

the odd clap then his feet will tap and he will clap his hands more frequently, eventually

he will stand up and jump, rock and ‘bounce’ to the music. Jake enjoys playing musical

instruments too. He shows a preference for drums and will often tilt his head to the side

after striking a drum as if to listen more intently or perhaps hear the sound vibrate.

When particularly animated Jake will bounce from foot to foot as he drums.

Jake has excellent motor skills and co-ordination. He can catch and throw a ball with

great accuracy and would be an asset to any cricket team. Jake currently takes part in

a range of sporting activities on site such as the use of the multi-gym and aerobic

exercises. In the changing rooms another group have their photos above pegs to show

them where to hang their clothes. When Jake gets changed he will invariably put his

hand over one or two of these photos at some point while he is there. He will do the

same with some photos around the classroom. He will also put his hand over light

switches, just briefly while he is passing them in the corridor. This is a fairly recent

behaviour and, like many of his behaviours, I am currently unable to even come up with

a suggestion as to why Jake might do it.

Sensory Profiles

In the mid-1940s when Hans Asperger (1944) coined the phrase ‘autistic psychopathy’

he also described the sensory sensitivities of the children he was studying. In his book

Asperger’s Syndrome A Guide for Parents and Professionals, Tony Attwood refers to

research by Rimland (1990) suggesting that about 40 per cent of children with autism

have some ‘abnormality of sensory sensitivity’ (cited in Attwood 1998 p129). Yet since

then this has been a relatively neglected area, particularly in the diagnosis of ASD as

Olga Bogdashina points out:

         ‘..though unusual sensory experiences have been observed in autistic
              people for many years and are confirmed by autistic individuals
           themselves, they are still listed as an associated (and not essential)
            feature of autism in the main diagnostic classifications.’ (2003 p21)

Sensory tests and assessments may be used to determine sensory differences or

difficulties. However, carrying out such assessments can be complex for many

reasons. All our senses are integrated so it is sometimes a ‘best fit’ that is used.

Neuroscience is not yet able to determine definitive cause-effect relationships between

sensory processing and behaviour and the way people with ASD are affected by

sensory experiences can differ greatly so it would be impossible to accurately record all

accounts. Then, there are young people like Jake with communication and learning

difficulties who are unable to express what they see, hear, feel etc. so someone else

has to make an educated guess for them. Olga Bogdashina suggests that nonverbal

people ‘usually have more severe sensitivities’ (p172) although she does not go on to

clarify this. I assume that by the very nature of their lack of speech they will not

(presumably) intellectualise what they feel which perhaps may increase its intensity.

Clearly it is essential that anyone working with or caring for someone with ASD

becomes as aware as possible about sensory differences in order to support that

person as best they can.

In recent years sensory profiles have been developed with a view to supporting those

with ASD. Sensory profiles generally look at behaviours from a sensory processing

perspective. ‘Behaviours presented by someone with autism will often be a direct

reaction to their sensory experience’ (NAS 2004 p1). Examples of formal sensory

profiles include Winnie Dunn’s Sensory Profile (1999) and an abbreviated version, the

Short Sensory Profile (1999) (cited in Myles et al 2000). The full profile is a 125 item

norm-referenced questionnaire that refers to behavioural responses to different sensory

experiences. Additional information can be given in an interview format and when the

profile is complete it is scored and classified. The classifications are typical

performance, probable difference and definite difference. Interpretation of the results

and the planning of subsequent intervention strategies requires ‘a solid understanding

of sensory processing’ (Myles et al 2000 p48).

An example of an informal sensory profile is the recently updated Sensory Profile

Checklist-Revised (SPCR) by Olga Bogdashina (2003). The 232 item checklist is used

to produce a sensory profile of someone with ASD. Olga says the descriptors are

based on the information from ‘personal accounts of autistic (sic) individuals and close

observations of autistic children’ (p160). The SPCR contains twenty categories through

seven sensory systems (vision, hearing, tactility, smell, taste proprioception, vestibular).

The checklist is then ‘decoded’ using a chart that corresponds to the twenty categories

and seven sensory systems. The information on the chart is then transferred to a

‘rainbow’ chart using a colour code. The number of boxes coloured in that area shows

the extent to which each sensory area is affected. The number of coloured sections

relates to the number of characteristics experienced by that individual. Each person

with an ASD then has their own ‘rainbow’ to display their sensory perceptions. The

curved lines of the rainbow ‘indicate that not all sensory differences are deficits’ (p167).

The individual ‘rainbows’ produced serve to emphasise the strategies that are

appropriate for one person with ASD may not be beneficial and could even be

detrimental to another due to their differing sensory reactions.

Bogdashina recommends that the SPCR is completed by parents of the child but

concedes that it is also necessary to observe the child during sessions at school or the

clinic (sic) in order to consolidate the parental information and check some points

marked in the SPCR as ‘not sure’’. The child or young person is also encouraged to

contribute by analysing their own behaviours and giving their own interpretation of them

through verbal explanation, drawings etc. The ways in which the Sensory Perceptual

Profile can help a child as defined by Bogdashina are summarised below:

   Identification of areas in which the child has or had problems.

   Identification of areas of strength.

   Identification of ‘problem’ areas.

   Identification of the preferred sensory modality.

   Selection of appropriate interventions in accordance with strengths and weaknesses.

Jake’s SPCR

There are no specific assessments, tests or profiles for sensory sensitivities currently

being used at Jake’s school although a sensory audit has recently been piloted. I

decided to use Olga Bogdashina’s Sensory Profile checklist for Jake and produce a

Sensory Perceptual Profile. The results of these can be found in Appendix one. In

addition I completed the sensory audit for my whole group in order to compare their

sensory differences. The format of the audit has been based on Bogdashina’s SPCR

but is a ‘slimmed down’ version. The results of this can be found in Appendix two.

The Sensory Profile checklist produced by Bogdashina (2003) requires parents/carers

to respond to over 200 statements. With all the best intentions in the world some

parents/carers may find this quite an onerous task. Personally I would have preferred

the checklist to have been visually divided into the seven sensory areas rather than just

a very long list. This could have helped simplify the ‘decoding’ process. Also some of

the questions are ambiguous, for example, ‘a very careful eater’ may mean they choose

their food carefully or cut their food carefully or are not messy when eating. Yet, when

completing the decoding it becomes clear that this statement is in the sensory area of

‘taste’ so presumably it is referring to someone who puts food into their mouth

cautiously in order to assess whether or not they like the taste?

For each statement an appropriate box is ticked, either true, false, was true or not

sure/do not know. True and was true can both be ticked to indicate the behaviour was

seen in the past and is still present today. The ‘was true’ column needs to be

completed by someone who has known the person with ASD for a long time.

Bogdashina states it is necessary to ‘trace the history of the child’s sensory

development and identify the acquired strategies to cope with certain deficits.’ (p166)

However there is no clear indication how acquired strategies are identified unless there

is a follow up interview or questionnaire for parents/carers.

I have not been able to use the ‘was true’ column on Jake’s checklist but perhaps there

are areas where his sensitivity has diminished as he has matured. According to

Attwood (1998) ‘hypersensitivity often diminishes during later childhood.’ (p129)

Having this information would produce a more detailed sensory profile but in terms of

supporting Jake to cope with his current environment in Post 16, it is not essential.

There was also some information that was not applicable to Jake. For example,

statements relating to his ability to interpret language, his written work and his

verbalisation of complaints were not pertinent to Jake’s situation. I had difficulty with

questions such as ‘hears a few words not the whole sentence’ because this was clearly

related to the young person’s ability to hear whereas (I believe) Jake can hear when a

sentence is said but what he cannot do is comprehend the words. Working at one key

word level he may pick out and comprehend ‘garden’ but that does not mean he is only

actually able to hear that one word.

While completing the chart I was quite surprised at the number of ‘false’ answers I had

to give. Working with Jake on a daily basis I feel he is one of the most hypersensitive

students in my group although this is not evident from the checklist. After responding to

all the items in the checklist I completed the chart and then produced a ‘rainbow’ chart

for Jake. Once again I was surprised by the results. From working with and observing

Jake I would assess the area of greatest sensitivity for him would be tactility. Indeed

this produced the greatest number of ticks on the checklist. However, because some

items related to the same box on the chart, when this information is transferred the

number of coloured boxes under ‘tactility’ is only two. The same number as for smell.

Conversely, the areas of vision and hearing have five and four coloured boxes

respectively whereas I had expected these to be lower than tactility. Perhaps it is just a

coincidence that the four examples given by Bogdashina in her book (2003) also have

higher scores for vision and hearing than the other areas? I would suggest that these

sensory areas are easier to assess by an observer. Bogdashina states that ‘’Rainbows’

are supposed to assist in finding out which sense(s) and to what extent are deficient

and which ones are ‘reliable’ ‘(p167). While she concedes all senses are integrated, I

feel using the ‘rainbow’ as a guide to sensory sensitivities gives an over-simplistic view

of hypersensitivity. In Jake’s case it is also my opinion that it is an inaccurate guide. A

young person who is verbal and can contribute to the Sensory Profile checklist is more

likely to gain an accurate and detailed outcome than someone in Jake’s position.

Sensory audit

The Educational Psychologist at Jake’s school has prepared a sensory audit based on

Bogdashina’s Sensory Profile checklist. The sensory areas are clearly headed and

sensory integration has been added, (sound, vision, touch, smell, taste, proprioception,

vestibular and sensory integration). The number of statements has been reduced to 74.

Respondents (in this case staff, either Special Support Assistants or teachers) use the

following key:

 = behaviour observed repeatedly

X = behaviour never or very rarely observed

U = unsure

The audit is to be carried out on a class/group basis with the intention of drawing

parallels or making comparisons between the students in one group. This is to ensure

the entire group is best supported during their school day. When the checklist has been

completed staff are asked to use the information to inform the following areas:

i)     the organisation of the classroom environment

ii)    the management of transitions

iii)   the organisation and management of teaching and learning opportunities

iv)    the organisation and planning of leisure activities.

The results for Jake unsurprisingly reflect the results of Bogdashina’s full sensory profile

but it is useful as a teacher to see them in comparison with the other students in the

group. I also believe it is essential to complete the checklist as a class team (in Jake’s

case this would involve seven members of staff) because people can observe different

aspects of behaviour and interpret them differently. If the whole team discuss and then

agree on a response for each statement in the checklist, a more thorough profile is likely

to be created. The results of the checklist are then used to make informed decisions

about the structure, content and environment for those particular students. This is how

the sensory sensitivities of each student serve to inform practice.

I feel the value of both the Sensory Profile and the Sensory Audit is that they serve to

provide parents/carers/professionals with an overview of many aspects of an

individual’s sensory sensitivities. For a teacher, these can be viewed in relation to other

students and the teaching methods, the learning environment and the curriculum can be

manipulated accordingly. For the parents and carers of young children this may be the

first opportunity to view their child’s hypersensitivity as a strength rather than a

weakness and they can then seek guidance on appropriate intervention strategies

where necessary.


Dunn et al (2002) discuss sensory processing concepts in their paper Asperger

Syndrome and Sensory Processing: A conceptual Model and Guidance for Intervention

Planning. While the article refers mainly to Asperger Syndrome, it does include other

diagnoses such as ASD. The article centres on Dunn’s proposed model for sensory

processing (1997) that characterises patterns of responding based on neurological

thresholds and self-regulation strategies. The article summarises the relationship

between these and outlines the characteristics of each pattern of sensory processing.

For example, Dunn et al define ‘sensory avoiding’ as children who engage in behaviours

to limit the sensory input they have to deal with. They hypothesise that they do this

because: ‘unfamiliar sensory input is difficult to understand and organise or might even

be ‘threatening’ to their nervous system.’ (p5). However, the authors also make it clear

that it is likely that combined patterns of sensory processing will be present so a child

might be a sensation avoider for auditory stimuli but not for other sensory systems.

The article also refers to research using Dunn’s Sensory Profile (1999) and how the

results of these differ significantly according to the diagnosis of the child. They even

cite research by Ermer and Dunn (1998) who classified children with autism, children

with ADHD and children without disabilities correctly (89% accuracy) just using the

results of their Sensory Profiles. They conclude, in an understated way by saying that

knowledge about sensory processing ‘may be useful’ in guiding research and practice.

(p7) However, in the final summary of the article Dunn et al (2002) put it more


        ‘A comprehensive consideration of the individual’s sensory patterns of
       performance, the sensory-related characteristics of the strategy, and the
   sensory features of the environment is necessary for optimal effectiveness.’ (p17)

For the purpose of this assignment I will interpret ‘optimal effectiveness’ to be the

teaching and learning of young people with ASD. In my capacity as a teacher of young

people with autism and, having carried out both a sensory profile and sensory audit, I

feel that it is not just necessary but essential to take into account an individual’s sensory

sensitivities in order to provide them with an effective learning environment and suitable

curriculum. For this reason I have found the sensory audit to be more beneficial when

planning and preparing the student’s lessons, environment and a structured day. For

example, the first statement in the sensory audit (difficulty in completing tasks in noisy

environment) received a positive response for 4/5 of my students. This knowledge has

ensured that Jake and his peers are only together as a group for short periods of time

such as the morning meeting. All lessons are structured so that the students can work

in small groups or individually in order to support those who find it difficult to tolerate the

presence or noise of other students.

Having used both the sensory audit and the sensory profile with Jake and his peers, I

feel there is too much emphasis on the negatives rather than the positive sensory

sensations. Occasionally a statement will say ‘Is fascinated by ..’ or ‘Is absorbed by ..’

but more usually it is a negative aspect such as ‘Distressed when feet leave the

ground’. More positive comments such as ‘Enjoys using swings’ would be helpful from

a teaching and learning perspective. While the Post 16 curriculum is largely based on

vocational areas such as Office Skills, Manufacturing and Catering there is sufficient

flexibility for the incorporation of other activities that I feel are particularly beneficial to

my students. For example, the students are able to use the purpose-built sensory room

and make a choice of activity such as the hammock or swing. In addition, we have

created a ‘communication room’ for sensory sessions involving items that can be

stimulating to the senses.

Music has been identified as a means of stimulation for many people with ASD so it has

been incorporated into a number of activities for Jake and his peers. Lively music is

playing when the students arrive in the morning and they leave to calm, quiet music.

Music is used in all sensory sessions and fitness sessions (Exercise to music, using the

gym equipment). Music is also time tabled enabling students the opportunity to play

instruments, practise breathing/singing exercises, follow rhythms, record themselves

and play it back and listen to and identify different types of music. Lessons are adapted

according to the particular group of students working at the time.

While using the sensory profile and particularly the sensory audit has been a useful

exercise, I feel more refinement is needed in order for the results to be of real use to

teachers and therefore of value to young people with ASD in a learning environment.

Sensory profiles have tended to be written primarily for carers and for therapists rather

than for those working in education. I believe it would be a valuable exercise to develop

sensory profiles (Primary, Secondary and Post 16) that could be used with pupils/

students and/or their carers when they arrive in school and when they move from one

department to the next. This information could then be used to group students

appropriately and would also be used when planning lessons and structuring the

environment. The results from the profiles would need to be transferred onto a grid

containing sensory information about all students in one class, in a similar way to the

sensory audit which allows parallels/contrasts to be drawn. Finally, I feel it is every

teacher’s responsibility to ensure they gather as much information as possible about the

sensory sensitivities of any young person in their care if they are to be able to provide

effective teaching and learning. ‘Learning how each individual autistic person’s senses

function is one crucial key to understanding that person.’ (O’Neill 1999 p31)


Asperger H (1944) Autistic Psychopathy translated by Uta Frith in Frith U (1991) (ed)

Autism and Asperger Syndrome Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Attwood T (1998) Asperger’s Syndrome A Guide for Parents and Professionals London

Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Bogdashina O (2003) Sensory Perceptual Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome

Different Sensory Experiences Different Perceptual Worlds London Jessica Kingsley

Dunn W (1997) The Impact of Sensory Processing Abilities ont eh Daily Lives of Young

Children and their Families: A Conceptual Model Infants & Young Children, 9(4), 23-25

Dunn W, Saiter J, Rinner L (2002) Asperger Syndrome and Sensory Processing: A

Conceptual Model and Guidance for Intervention Planning Source: Focus on Autism &

Other Developmental Disabilities, Fall2002 Vol 17 Issue 3 p172 14p

Jackson L (2002) Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome A User Guide to Adolescence

London Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Grandin T and Scariano M (1996) Emergence Labelled Autistic New York Warner


Holland O (2003) The Dragons of Autism Autism as a Source of Wisdom London

Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Myles B, Tapscott Cook K, Miller N, Rinner L, Robbins L (2000) Asperger Syndrome

and Sensory Issues Practical Solutions for Making Sense of the World USA Autism

Asperger Publishing Company

National Autistic Society (2004) The Sensoru World of the Autistic Spectrum (factsheet)

O’Neill, J L (1999) Through the Eyes of Aliens : A Book about Autistic People London

Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Rankin K (2000) Growing Up Severely Autistic They Call Me Gabriel London Jessica

Kingsley Pulishers

Sinclair J (1998) ‘Is Cure a Goal?’ http//

Williams D (1996) An Inside-Out Approach London Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Williams D (1998) Autism and Sensing The Unlost Instinct London Jessica Kingsley


Shared By: