Background Adolescents with sensory modulation disorders (SMD) have a high incidence of acting out inappropriately due to difficulty focusing and self-regulating. Use of sensory modulation interventions implemented by Occupational Therapists (OT) has been successful in other settings.
Objectives The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of sensory modalities and engagement in sensory-based activities for decreasing the number of ‘acting out’ behaviours during classroom sessions on an adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit to <2/day.
Methods During this nine week 2^3 factorial planned experimentation (PE) all patients, with or without SMD, who participated in OT were offered specific sensory modalities which included weighted vests, vibrating snake, and weighted lap pad as they worked on sensory-based activities during the OT sessions. Immediately following OT sessions, observations of patients‘ behaviours were made during the one hour classroom session.
Results Post introduction of sensory modalities, the baseline mean of ‘acting out’ episodes during class decreased for all patients from 14.2 to 1.3/day and SMD patients (account for 92% of episodes) from 12.8 to 1.2/day. Greatest improvement noted for SMD patients post all sensory modalities combination and sensory-based activities from mean of 12.8 to 0.4/day. This intervention replicated with similar outcome as the PE. Goal met and mean <1/day sustained until end of school session.
Conclusions Incorporating sensory modalities into adolescent psychiatric inpatients’ daily routine prior to the formalised classroom setting improves their ability to handle sensory stimuli appropriately and decrease acting out behaviours. Plan to continue monitoring for sustainability and spread to the adult inpatient psychiatric setting.
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