The senses are our windows to the world. Sensory processing is the way that a person’s body interprets and responds to the information in their environments. This information is received through all senses, which are vision, auditory (hearing), tactile (touch), proprioception (body awareness) and vestibular (balance and motion). Sound sensory processing supports the development of attention, thinking and movement skills and impacts emotional control and behavioural regulation overall.

There are many different types of treatment for sensory processing issues. Kids Matters Paediatric Occupational Therapists are Brisbane’s leaders in Sensory Processing treatment for children. Call our clinic now on to discover how we can help improve sensory processing skills and the emotional and behavioural regulation, confidence and developmental skills that go along with this.

The approach to managing sensory processing challenges varies from child to child and family to family. You will need to have an appointment with one of our trained Occupational therapists to see what approach will be best for you.

Want to learn more? Attend our Sensory Processing & Anxiety Seminar. 


Children with sensory integration problems often do not get enough of the right kinds of stimulation at home or school to effectively organize their brain. If they are under sensitive to certain types of sensory stimuli,their neurological system may require much more stimulation than other children. Some children who are over sensitive to some types of sensory information may need much less stimulation than typical or assistance in training their brain to respond more appropriately to the sensations they receive in their environment so they can fully engage in their world.

At our Brisbane Occupational therapy clinics, when using sensory processing treatments,  our OTs for kids will use a sensory integration approach with appropriate children. This aims to provide the right physical and emotional environment so kids with sensory integration and processing problems can explore their environment and get the right kind of stimulation to enhance brain organization and development. This helps with their sensory processing and their ability to cope in their environments.

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A typical session is a child-led playful exploration of the “sensory gym”, which has been set up by the therapist according to the needs of the child. The therapist’s role is to facilitate the child to explore and have mastery of all equipment and activities in a joyful, playful interaction at the “just right challenge” (an activity or task that is neither too hard nor too easy for the child).

Through this process, the child learns mastery of his or her body and environment and sensory integration and processing is enhanced. Both the child and the parents learn about what is helpful for the child and the journey to recovery continues at home.

We find that this approach is especially helpful to get the child in the right state to learn, focus and play and be ready for some more of the cognitive or skill building work.


A sensory diet, otherwise known as a sensory lifestyle is a planned and scheduled activity regime that encourages a variety of sensations to be experienced throughout the day. As with a food diet, where children need to eat regularly throughout the day to maintain their energy and focus, so a sensory diet provides specific sensory experiences, tailored to the child, that are implemented regularly throughout the day with the aim to help the child feel calm, alert and organized most of the time. This helps sensory processing.

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It can be used to:

  • help a child who has a low arousal level “wake up” and be more alert
  • help a child who seems to always be on the move or anxious calm down
  • help a child  who is “all over the place” be more organized
  • help a child who battles to concentrate and complete tasks appropriately, focus on their work

Sensory activities are tailored to the child’s sensory needs and often include:
• Movement
• Heavy work of joints and muscles (Proprioception)
• Visual stimulation (looking)
• Oral stimulation (mouth fidgets)
• Deep pressure touch to whole body
• Deep pressure touch for hands (hand fidgets)
• Auditory Stimulation (hearing)
• Smell

Sensory activities are known to have a lasting calming and organizing effect on the nervous system. For example, the effect of engaging in an activity that requires whole body movement where the muscles are engaged in hard work can last for approximately 2 hrs. This also applies to deep pressure on the skin such as massage whereas slow rhythmical movements can have a calming effect for up to 6 hrs.


“How does your Engine Run” (by Williams and Shellenberger) is a cognitive-based intervention used to enable children to become aware of their arousal level and change it using sensorimotor strategies. Strategies are based on arousal theory, learning theories and sensory-motor self-regulation strategies. This also helps sensory processing.

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Arousal Theory

Arousal refers to the state of the nervous system used to describe how alert a person feels. A person’s nervous system must be in an optimal state of arousal for him or her to be able to pay attention, concentrate and perform required life tasks effectively. For example, a child must be appropriately alert in order to learn effectively at school.

Arousal States or Engine Levels

Levels of arousal can be compared to the motor of a car – Low Speed, High Speed or Just Right.

• Low – When it is so difficult to get moving. One feels low, lethargic, poor motivation and hard to get going.
• High – When it is hard to slow down or stop. This is marked by poor attention and hyperactive behaviour and difficulty sitting still.
• Just Right – When it is easy to concentrate, learn and efficiently complete daily tasks.

Self-Regulation is the ability to attain, maintain and change arousal appropriately for a task or situation, as required. There are subconscious and conscious methods for self-regulation.

Approach taken by Kids Matters OT
Kids Matters OTs educate children and their family on arousal theory and self-regulation and help the child explore what strategies help keep their engine “just right”.


What is Therapeutic Listening®?

Developed by Vital Links, Therapeutic Listening is research based tool for treating people of all ages who have difficulty processing sensory information, listening, attention, and communication. It also may help overall sensory processing.

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Parents, teachers, and therapists have seen significant results by using Therapeutic Listening including:

• Increased focus and attention
• Better moods
• Balanced energy levels
• Greater tolerance to noise
• Improved sleep
• Better handwriting
• Fewer tantrums
• Less anxiety

Used by thousands of therapists around the world, Therapeutic Listening is a highly individualized, music based tool that activates listening to help people tune-in to and respond to their world.

High quality music, recorded specifically for Therapeutic Listening, is altered to exaggerate the sounds that naturally capture attention and tap into the parts of the brain involved in regulating bodily functions, relating to others, and organizing behavior.

For more information visit the Vital Links website >


Vestibular enhancement has always been central to sensory integration practice. However, the importance of administering precise vestibular input that is integrated with specific sound and visual input is only beginning to be acknowledged. This approach taps in to the important interactions between the vestibular, auditory and visual systems. It helps improve sensory processing.

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Astronaut Training provides precise input to all five vestibular receptors, along with auditory and visual input to create a comprehensive treatment protocol that integrates these three sensory systems. Core activities provide opportunities for an adaptive response to sensory input, which completes the sensorimotor neurological circuits underlying all function. Guidelines are provided for safe, effective use of this protocol with clients of all ages and diagnoses.

Click here for more information about Astronaut training from Vital Links

Vestibular rehabilitation at Kids Matters OT is based on many of the principles of astronaut program (devised by Mary Kawar (OTR) and Sheila Frick (OTR) from the United States based on the training principles used by astronauts being prepared to go into space) combined with other theory knowledge from sensory-integration based theories and child-lead play.

A healthy vestibular system is important to all of us, not only astronauts! “Through the proper functioning of our Vestibular-Auditory-visual Triad the sights and sounds of our world become meaningful and entice us to move, explore and engage with objects, people and events. The vestibular system provides a perception of orientation in space that must be activated by the musculo-skeletal system. It is our internal guidance instrument working to tie the body senses, such as proprioception (body sense) and touch, together with the visual and auditory senses.” (Kawar MJ, Frick SM, and Frick R Astronaut Training: A sound Activated Vestibular-Visual protocol for Moving, Looking and Listening).

As a bridge between sensory processing and movement control, the vestibular system plays a major role in everything we do including looking and listening. Kids Matters OTs use the Astronaut Training protocol for improving function in the Vestibular-Auditory-Visual Triad. We find that it is very beneficial in improving movement confidence and exploration with children.


• For all children with over-sensitivity to movement (fear of movement, low confidence, nausea, hyperactivity after movement)
• For all children with poor postural control
• For children who seek excessive movement
• For children with coordination and timing issues.

Program length varies but ranges between 2-12 weeks, depending on the child.


The Wilbarger Therapressure Protocol is a very specific somatosensory intervention that uses deep, deep touch pressure and joint proprioception at 90 minute to 2-hourly intervals (in waking hours), in combination with a sensory diet to encourage the sensory system to address the underlying sensory defensiveness. The program is continued as long as the child gets benefit and holds the changes (average range between 2 weeks and 6 months, in which time it is hoped that permanent neurological changes will have been made. To maximise the effects of the program and for the results to stick, the brushing process must be done 6-8 x/ day and therefore must be done at both home, school, kindy or daycare. The entire brushing process for a child takes 2-3 minutes. It also helps overall sensory processing.

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This protocol was devised by Patricia and Julia Wilbarger from the USA and has been evolving over the past 25 years. It is currently in the descriptive stage of the research. The current theory surrounding this program has been drawn from studies into the effects of massage therapy and exercise. It is postulated that the brushing helps to stimulate the body to release endorphins. These last in the system 90 minutes- 2 hours. If the brushing occurs at the required frequency, then these endorphins are in the bloodstream consistently and stimulate the body to release calming and organising neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. The consistent effects of these neurotransmitters in the bloodstream mean the child becomes more organised and calmer and that sensory defensiveness is reduced or eliminated.

Julia and Patricia Wilbarger suggested that in their experience of those who follow the program as suggested (drawn from clear documentation from the thousands of children they have worked with)

• approximatily 40% of children appear to be mostly cured (with relapses in times of stress)
• approximately 40% make significant improvements
• 20% don’t seem to change much. (from Wilbarger training course, Brisbane, March 2007).

Kids Matters Occupational Therapists have seen a similar pattern.