Controlling sensory processing & modulation

Controlling sensory processing & modulation


We have had lots of issues, with Jack wanting to take his Nintendo Switch to school. He uses devices as a way of controlling his sensory processing and modulation. His school have done us a social story, to help us explain to him why he can’t take it. And also so he can’t try on, the school say I can take it routine. Which he does all the time.

Controlling sensory processing and modulation

We went through it with him the night before, so he was ready for the morning. I still expecting him to want to take it, but no. I was all ready for battle, but Jack didn’t even mention the switch once. Then when it was time to go. Much to my amazement he just walked out of the door with a smile on his face.

It’s not uncommon for Jack to wait to the last second, before deciding he wants to take something with him. Because of this I stay prepared until he’s gone out the door. Once I shut the door behind him I felt a bit lost. I was so keyed up and ready for battle, that when it went so smoothly I didn’t know what to do with myself. Social stories are great things, but for it to work in this situation so well on the first day. It was unexpected, but I’m delighted that it did. 

Operation Punch bag

Jack got a punch bag for his birthday, it took some time to set up as you have to fill the base with sand. The holes to put the sand in are ridiculously small. Lily always likes to volunteer to help, and as she’s off school at the moment I got her involved. Right now I’m not sure if we are even half way there, but we’ve taken a break. It had become painstakingly dull and I was starting to ache. I will carry on with it later.

The reason for the punch bag, is when Jack is getting annoyed, angry or has a full on meltdown. He hits and throws what ever he can get his hands on. If I’m around it’s usually me, me or aimed at me. So we are trying to find ways for Jack to let out his frustration in a safer manner.

Controlling sensory processing and modulation

As I’ve said before, things have got much better with Jack’s behaviour. A big part of that, and a big part of continuing to improve it. Is finding strategies to control his anxiety. His sensory modulation and processing needs, are where a lot of the issues come from. When Jack has a meltdown, he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He is normally “seeking”, what I mean by this is he is after sensory input.

Jack is diagnosed with both Sensory Processing Disorder and Sensory Modulation Disorder. What does this mean? Sensory processing refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into responses. For those with Sensory Processing Disorder, sensory information goes into the brain but does not get organized into appropriate responses.

Sensory modulation is the ability to respond appropriately to sensory information and remain at an appropriate level of alertness for daily activities. For Jack this manifests in being over sensitive to things, especially high pitched noises. He is unable to regulate himself, so he seeks for you to do it for him. We are working on him recognising when he needs help to regulate, so we can help him before he’s at the point of hitting things.

It’s a work in progress, but we have made some headway. When he is seeking we use deep pressure to help him, lots of squeezes and also letting him push into is while we push back. Controlling sensory processing and modulation, isn’t easy, and takes a lot of thought and planning. You need to always be aware, especially if the person you are caring for can’t communicate to you spoken words. They will likely be communicating in other ways, you just need to learn those ways.

Trying to plan ahead to avoid meltdowns


Trying to direct him to a punch bag, when he is in meltdown probably isn’t going to happen. Instead the plan that was discussed as the last multi agency meeting we had. Is to try and get a sort of routine together, that gets Jack the sensory input that he needs throughout the day. To hopefully avoid him getting frustrated and angry so quickly.

I plan to draw a routine up. I’m not sure I want it to be set in stone. Do this at 4, do this at 5 etc.. Unless it turns out that’s how Jack needs it to be, but a case of having set things that we do throughout the day. Anyone with any experience with this, any advice would be gratefully recieved.

So we are looking to keep him doing little walks, some stretching and maybe even yoga. He does yoga at school sometimes, and really likes it. Finally use the punch bag to help get some of that sensory input he needs, but also a fun form of exercise for him as well.

Do you know of or use anything to help with any sensory processing issues? I would love to hear about them, we are always looking for new ideas to help both Jack and Lily.

Dad Does Autism