Brainwaves, Issue 15, Sensory Strategies in IEP’s

By | October 14, 2013

Issue 15, Sensory Strategies in IEP’s

In the last issue, I provided some information and strategies about wasps.  Worries about bugs and wasps seem to be a common concern of many children!  A common concern of many parents is the development of their child’s Individual Education Plans (IEP).  It is a hot topic at this time of year so this issue is about including sensory strategies in IEPs.

Brainwaves is a monthly newsletter designed to create some “brainwaves” within my community of colleagues, friends and clients.

The most important place to get information about IEPs in Manitoba is through the government of Manitoba website at…

Some IEP facts… 

Who Must Have an IEP?  Provincial legislation and regulations and Manitoba Education standards and policies require that IEPs be developed fmanitobaor these students;

1)     Those who are not expected to meet or approximate the expected learning outcomes of provincial curricula

2)     Those who receive Special Needs Categorical Funding (Level II or III)

3)     Those who are eligible for the English as an Additional Language (E), the Modified (M) course designation, or the Individualized Programming (I) designation in Grades 9 to 12.


Who Develops the IEP? The Student Support Team generally includes a core team of the student (if appropriate), the student’s parents or caregivers, and the teacher(s).  Members of the school support team such as clinicians (occupational therapist, psychologist, speech therapist) become involved as needed or when the school team requires consultation.  Community members such as Children’s disability workers may also be involved as determined by the team.  One person from the school team is designated as the case manager. 


When?  Although the development and use of an IEP should be an ongoing process that carries over from year to year, most schools write or majorly revise a student’s IEP in the fall and then review it in the spring.  Parents are generally part of the planning process in the fall, are asked to sign the completed IEP and then return in the spring for a review meeting. 

What? The student’s needs are generally described under various domains.  I list some of them in the next section.

How does sensory processing fit in?

Sensory differences can impact any of the above domains and should be noted in the IEP with corresponding instructional strategies, materials or environments.  For example;

·        Communication; auditory sensitive so staff to decrease amount of language used; work in a quieter environment; use of sound blockers; allow increased time for child to respond to language requests

·        Cognitive/academic; utilize movement breaks, deep pressure touch and sensory tools to increase ability to self-regulate (ie) hand “tools” and zuma® rocker seating options; use visual organizers, schedules, lists; low stimulation classroom; extra support may be needed during music

·        Social skills; touch sensitivity requires predictable environments; designated area on carpet; beginning or end of student line-ups

·        Self-help; requires a designated area to dress away from coat area

·        Motor skills; use of heavy muscle work activities to increase self-regulation in physical education class

What can you do to include sensory strategies?

Generally, occupational therapists (OT) are the team member who is the most well versed about sensory processing and strategies.  Depending on yoOTur school division, your child may or may not have access to OT services.  Most school divisions have OT’s, but some have very few and only the most needy children, receive their services.   School divisions also differ in what their OT services look like with some offering direct treatment and some offering only consultation services.  Consultations services do not mean that your child is actually receiving occupational therapy assessment and treatment…it usually means that an OT has come to observe your child and has provided some ideas to the school team.  The nature of consultation means that the school team decides which ideas to accept and implement. 

So, if your child is not able to access OT services and your team has limited knowledge of sensory processing, you may need to become the expert!  …but remember your journey is a marathon, not a sprint.