Exploring the Impact of the Senses on Behaviour

Now available via The Sensory Projects Online College

This day contains CPD certified material and can be booked as in-house training.

Scroll down if you are thinking about Ofsted or considering CQC.

Behaviour is the result of two interconnected factors: the person and the environment.

The sensory world impacts upon both of these factors. By understanding its impact we can learn to make adjustments at an individual and environmental level to better help those whose struggles with the sensory world can be expressed through behaviours that others may find challenging.

On this day you will learn:

    • The underpinning roots to behaviour triggered by sensory experience.

    • Strategies you can use at an environmental level and at an individual level to help someone who is struggling and expressing that struggle through their behaviour.

    • How to create simple sensory resources to support a person.

    • How to create sensory environments to support a person.

    • How to create a sensory flight path and support its use.

    • How to communicate with someone whose behaviour has been triggered by a sensory experience.

On iterations of this day hosted by The Sensory Projects we will be joined by an exciting guest speaker Katie White from The Best Medicine, who will show us that teaching emotional regulation need not always be a chore, it can be fun!

Unlike the other days on the tour this day will not focus on the needs of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. This day will be suitable for:

    • Parents or carers seeking to understand their children's responses to particular situations or environments better.

    • Mainstream and special school teachers, teaching assistants, and SENCOs who support children with behaviour that may be triggered by sensory difficulties.

    • Adult care workers who support people who find environments or particular situations challenging and express this through their behaviour.

    • Therapists, playworkers, sessional workers, portage workers or any other professional who wants to better understand the children/young people/adults they support.

    • Team members from settings that welcome diverse populations and are looking to better understand their visitors and how to support them in accessing their environment e.g. heritage setting workers, activity center workers, leisure center activity co-ordinators.


I thought I knew about which sensory activities to offer when children displayed certain behaviours. This course enabled me to take a step back and consider what was causing that sensory need in the first place. To think about ‘ flight ‘ and the prevention of ‘ fight ‘ so you don’t have to deescalate. It sewed seeds subtlety that will change my practice for good now.

Most useful of everything is Jo’s perspective on emotion. I never ever thought of it like this before and have been indoctrinating children into labelling certain actions and facial expressions in the same way we once taught rote maths with no application or true understanding. It kind of made me really question my understanding of autism. I really admire Jo’s honesty and unique insight. By talking about her own life it makes it easier to understand.


Easily the best course I’ve been on this decade.

Today I dipped my toe in the water and changed just a few things in my setting ....the response I got was overwhelming. I’ve never felt so loved and appreciated. It was like my pupils were saying ( in their non verbal way ) ‘finally you get it ...we are on the same page.‘ I’m ready to change what I do in September, change my keystage and school.

Thinking about Ofsted?

Ofsted look for providers to have high expectations for learners’ behaviour (EIF 2019 p 10) and want to see settings assessing the effectiveness of interventions, and the effectiveness of the support and professional development put in place for NQTs and other teachers in the early stages of their career, particularly with regards to pupil behaviour (SIH 2019 p 25 & p 92). Children with special educational needs are cited as possibly needing more support but special educational needs are never accepted as an excuse for negative behaviour. Negative behaviour indicates a need, one that in all situations settings should be trying to meet. Settings considering this training day understand that for some students the sensory world can have a huge influence on their conduct.

Ofsted recognize that disruptive behaviour or sudden changes in behaviour can be an indication of unmet needs or a change in another aspect of a young person’s life (SIH 2019 p 54). Behaviour stemming from sensory causes can be hard to manage through traditional means. It is important that settings who support students who may experience the world in sensorially different ways equip their staff to support those students, and do not simply dismiss negative behaviour as a consequence of a particular condition or disability. All behaviour is communicative and a student exhibiting behaviours we find challenging is clearly articulating that their needs are not being met.

Ofsted speak about the importance of the environment with regards to behaviour and social, emotional and mental health (EIF 2019 p 10, p11, SIH 2019 p 52, SIH 2019 p 92). Exploring the Impact of the Senses on Behaviour teaches you how to use the environment to support pupils in feeling calm and safe, and shows you how to use the environment as a communicative tool when supporting someone in crisis.

Ofsted want to see schools enabling pupils to be mentally healthy (SIH 2019 p 59), students who continually have to use behaviour to communicate unmet needs are unlikely to be reaching their optimum wellbeing. Ofsted evaluate how well leaders identify, assess and meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SIH 2019 p 91). They also look at how successfully schools engage parents, carers and other professionals/specialists in the support of their pupils. (SIH 2019 p 92) Settings considering this training have identified that their students behaviour is sometimes linked to the way they process sensory information and are seeking specialist insight to guide them in supporting those students.

SIH = School Inspection Handbook 2019

EIF = Education Inspection Framework 2019

Considering CQC?

CQC’s descriptions of outstanding service describe settings that are creative and innovative, staffed with exceptionally well trained people who empower those they work on behalf of. They speak of settings seeking out current best practice and ensuring all their staff have access to the learning. Outstanding settings recognise the preferences of their residents and are constantly on the lookout for new ideas.

Behaviour that stems from sensory roots will not respond in the same way to standard behaviour management strategies as behaviour stemming from other causes, therefore it is necessary for settings to seek out new knowledge and to respond reflectively to these differing needs. By giving staff access to knowledge (C2.3) about how the senses impact on behaviour and the communication strategies available to them when they do a setting empowers their staff to better support (S4.5) those whom express their difficulties with the sensory world through their behaviour (C2.2). Past delegates have described the course as having a transformative effect on their practice.

Exploring the Impact of the Senses on Behaviour is informed by current research and contains CPD accredited content. Thinking in a sensory way requires a creative innovative approach and staff will learn preventative sensory strategies as well as sensory communication techniques to use in a crisis, both will contribute to a safe environment (FKQ) where behaviour management is effective (FKQ). Being able to understand communicative behaviour (S2.7) can connect staff with the people they support (E1.1) and enable them to be more caring (FKQ) whereas a lack of understanding may alienate one from the other.

An improved understanding of how the senses can impact behaviour will inform practice in other areas, for example: how rooms are set up (E6.3), how dinner (E3.3 E5.1) is conducted, the use of restraint (E7.6) and of technological approaches such as multi-sensory rooms (E6.3).

Exploring the Impact of the Senses on Behaviour will add another tool to the toolkit carried by staff as they seek to care compassionately and effectively for those they support.

FKQ: Care Quality Commission’s Five Key Questions

References: Care Quality Commission: - Key lines of enquiry, prompts and ratings characteristics for adult social care services