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How Do We Use Our Sensory and Motor Systems in the School Setting?

Sensory and motor skills in the classroom. How these skills and the integration of these skills can affect school performance.

Success in the classroom and whole school environment requires adequate sensorimotor

abilities that are integrated throughout the day.

For most activities, the sensory and motor components are interconnected, and the adequate sensory processing and integration is what drives the motor response.

Some activities that require sensorimotor functioning, listed from the OT/PT guidelines (2012) include:
  • Coloring, cutting, writing, typing, unzip backpack- requires hand strength, finger dexterity, tactile discrimination, visual motor integration, bilateral coordination, postural control, using appropriate pressure

  • Writing on a line- requires ocular motor and visual motor integration, vestibular processing, hand strength

  • Reading- requires ocular motor and visual motor integration, vestibular processing, sustained attention

  • Attend to classroom instruction- requires the ability to filter out irrelevant information, adequate visual and auditory processing

  • Completing projects or assignments with multiple steps- requires the ability to initiate, organize, and execute plans (praxis), sustained attention

  • Maintain personal body space in circle time, line, or assembly- requires adequate vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile processing, postural stability

  • Navigate playground (climb stairs, play on swings, balance)- requires vestibular and proprioceptive processing, bilateral coordination, visual motor integration, postural control, balance, strength and endurance, motor planning

  • Participate in P.E. or recess games (run, hop, throw, catch, kick, dribble)- requires bilateral coordination, vestibular and proprioceptive processing, visual motor integration, motor planning, endurance, strength

  • Feed self with utensils, opening packages- requires bilateral coordination, tactile discrimination, visual motor integration, hand and finger strength and dexterity, postural stability

  • Manage clothing during the day- requires motor planning, bilateral coordination, tactile discrimination, visual motor integration, hand and finger strength and dexterity

As you can see, a single activity requires the ongoing integration of several sensory and motor systems. If children are having trouble with integrating these systems it can affect how they are performing in the classroom and on the playground.

If you are concerned about your child's sensory or motor skills please discuss with their teacher and find a local Occupational Therapist.

(California Dept of Education. Guidelines for OT and PT in Public Schools-2 nd Edition, 2012)


Dr. Katie Oien, OTD, OTR/L, MS, BCP

Katie is an occupational therapist certified by the National Board of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) and the state of California. She specializes in working with children with various neurodevelopmental and physical disorders. She is SIPT certified and has advanced training in neuroscience, sensory integration, reflex integration, neurodevelopmental treatment, feeding, and physical agent modalities.

Skyrocket Pediatric Therapy Foundation (Skyrocket) does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Skyrocket provides general information about developmental disabilities and developmental therapies as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Skyrocket has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties. The views and opinions expressed in blogs on our website do not necessarily reflect the views of Skyrocket.

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