Sensory Assessment Checklist PDF Example
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What is a Sensory Assessment Checklist?

Sensory processing underlies much of what we do and how we interact with the environment around us. Involving many systems, this ability uses our senses to gather sensory input from the body and environment, such as noise or touch, that is processed to inform our behavioral interactions. These can include interactions with the physical environment through object manipulation or social engagements like making friends.

The ability to process sensory information can differ significantly amongst individuals as sensory needs or preferences differ. Some young people may struggle with sensory input due to dysfunction or disordered processing in one or more sensory systems. While a sensory processing disorder may manifest differently, it is typically experienced as over- or under-responsiveness.

Diagnosing a sensory processing disorder can be challenging, given that sensory preferences or sensitivities are not always readily visible. To aid pediatric health practitioners and caregivers, we have developed the sensory assessment checklist, a practical resource that can provide insight into an individual's sensory processing abilities and preferences. While it is not a diagnostic tool, it is typically used by health practitioners to gain a general idea of sensitivities for individuals, particularly children or young people.

The checklist lists various items related to one of the sensory systems involved in sensory processing. Each sensory system has a unique role in gathering information for the brain to make sense of the environment, stay alert, and maintain our positioning. These include:

  • Auditory system
  • Gustatory system
  • Interoceptive system
  • Olfactory system
  • Proprioceptive system
  • Tactile system
  • Vestibular system
  • Visual system

This checklist allows health practitioners such as an occupational therapist or pediatric doctor to begin early diagnosis for sensory processing disorders. This will enable them to establish a child's sensory preferences and develop strategies supportive of the child and those around them.

Sensory Assessment Checklist Template

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Sensory Assessment Checklist Example

Download Example PDF

How does the Sensory Assessment Checklist work?

As a preliminary, non-diagnostic resource, the checklist can be used as a milestone or developmental document that can be kept for pediatric records. To show you how this resource operates in practice, we have broken down the process into the following steps:

Step 1: Access the checklist

Begin by accessing our free sensory assessment checklist here, or you can download the PDF version to generate a physical copy using the link below:

Download the printable Sensory Assessment Checklist PDF here.

Step 2: Become familiar with the resource

The checklist works by viewing the client's behavior and ticking off observed items. Additionally, there is space to make notes for specific sensory responses; for example, if a child does not like noisy places, a caregiver may note that this is most experienced in large crowds.

Step 3: Consultation

During consultations or developmental visits, discussing the client's current developmental milestones and sensory preferences is essential. This may involve reviewing the client's records and discussing any sensory experiences requiring further appraisal.

Step 4: Introduce the resource

Introduce the checklist by explaining its purpose, the importance of tracking sensory symptoms, and how to use it.

Step 5: Review the checklist

In your next client visit, review the checklist items for patterns where the child reacts negatively or is more sensory-seeking towards certain inputs. Discuss these with the caregiver to gain further insight, and document any symptoms or comments.

Step 6: Further assessment

If the client demonstrates sensitivities, conducting further assessments to diagnose a sensory processing disorder and develop a unique sensory profile may be beneficial. This may involve completing a sensory profile questionnaire or a sensory processing disorder checklist.

Step 7: Ongoing monitoring and support

Continue monitoring and supporting pediatric clients and their caregivers by scheduling regular consultations, creating a comprehensive list of sensory preferences, or providing resources.

Scoring

The Sensory Assessment Checklist scoring system is crucial to interpreting results and supporting healthcare practitioners to identify the child’s unique sensory system abilities and patterns. This can then be used to develop a personalized treatment or support plan.

A score can be generated by aggregating the responses for each item, using the scale from 1 (Rarely) to 5 (Almost Always). Higher scores for an item reflect more specific sensory responses, which may require further investigation.

When should a Sensory Assessment Checklist be conducted?

A sensory assessment checklist is most typically conducted to produce a sensory profile. This can be conducted between infancy and toddlerhood, from 7 to 35 months, to generate a toddler's sensory profile. Developing a childhood sensory profile may also be completed between 3 and 14.

Although a sensory assessment checklist may be conducted for a variety of instances, the following are some scenarios in which it would be most beneficial to complete:

Preliminary sensory processing disorder assessment

The sensory assessment checklist may provide preliminary information regarding a child's sensory preferences, where over- or under-responsiveness may prompt further assessment to diagnose a sensory processing disorder.

Devising a sensory profile

Gathering the information from the completed checklist, alongside additional sensory experiences reported by caregivers, can support health practitioners in creating a sensory profile for the child. This can facilitate understanding how the child may process certain sensory activities or inputs, providing insight into sensory processing abilities for functional performance.

Informing strategies

By completing the checklist and understanding the client's sensory processing abilities, health practitioners can devise an informed sensory checklist and strategies to help support the client's needs. This could include encouraging caregivers to incorporate sensory breaks into the client's daily routine, which could help reduce sensory overload.

Who may use this checklist?

The Sensory Processing Assessment PDF is an invaluable tool that is designed for a range of pediatric health practitioners, which may include:

  • Child psychologists: Professionals in child psychology services may use the checklist to identify a child's sensory preferences and areas where they can devise strategies and support the child. This may include developing strategies to help the child overcome input they are overly sensitive towards, such as regulating their emotions.
  • Occupational therapists: An occupational therapist may use the sensory assessment checklist to identify the child's specific sensory abilities and preferences while devising plans to help enhance these. This may include using this information to devise recommendations for supporting the child in different environments and activities to help the child develop skills such as delicate motor tasks.
  • Parents and caregivers: Parents and caregivers may use the checklist to observe and understand their child's specific sensory processing abilities and sensory needs. As a result, they may be able to develop strategies that support the child's sensory seeking, develop strategies, and provide more comfortable sensory experiences.
    For example, a child sensitive to tactile sensation may have tactile dysfunction, making certain textures uncomfortable. By observing the child's reactions to certain textures, they may establish the child's clothing preferences.
  • Pediatricians: Pediatricians may use the checklist preliminary procedure for early identification of sensory processing difficulties or a sensory processing disorder. Early detection often has better outcomes for children and their caregivers due to the earlier introduction of intervention and support.
  • Physical therapists: Physical therapists may use this resource to help identify challenging motor skills and physical functioning areas. This may include difficulty processing vestibular input, where a physical therapist may introduce specific physical activities involving body movements to enhance the vestibular system and body awareness.
What is the purpose of the Sensory Assessment Checklist?
What is the purpose of the Sensory Assessment Checklist?

Commonly asked questions

What is the purpose of the Sensory Assessment Checklist?

The sensory assessment checklist is a preliminary procedure to identify a child's sensory processing preferences, patterns, and sensitivities. This helps healthcare practitioners such as occupational therapists, educators, and caregivers identify a child's strengths and challenges, which can be used to devise intervention plans, activities, and strategies to support the child.

Who may administer the Sensory Assessment Checklist?

The checklist is most typically administered as a recommendation by health professionals involved in pediatric care, such as pediatricians and physical therapists, for caregivers to complete.

What age group does this checklist assess?

The sensory assessment checklist is typically administered for children, with an infant to toddler range (7 to 35 months) and a child to adolescent range (3 to 14 years).

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