Maintaining Optimal Levels of Alertness
Using Sensory Input


The following information are excerpts from an article by Melissa L. Holmes, OTR/L

Various types of sensory input assist all individuals in maintaining an optimal state of alertness/arousal.  Obtaining an optimal level of alertness is important to achieving success in all aspects of one's life, including learning.

When using these activities and strategies, it is important to look for the desired response as well as for any undesired responses, as well as for any undesired responses.  Discontinue a particular activity/strategy that yields an undesired response.  Also, different degrees or amounts of activities/strategies will be needed to obtain and maintain desired levels of alertness.

These activities may be applied to all individuals and do not only apply to individuals with special needs.  As we better understand our own responses to these activities, we may be better able to understand others as well.

ORGANIZING activities and strategies:

- pushing and pulling activities; e.g.pushing a loaded cart
- lifting and caryingheavy objects
- wrestling
- biking
- moving furniture; i.e., putting chairs up
- football
- tug-of-war
- carrying and passing out books
- hiking
- climbing
- wheelbarrow walking
- trampoline
- hanging by one's arms
- lifting weights
- pushing hands together
- standing and pushing against a desk, counter, or wall with hands and arms
- stretching
- manipulating stiff putty
- lying under heavy quilts or pillows (no more than 20 minutes)
- tapping toes and feet
- tapping pens or pencils
- eating chewy foods; i.e. licorice, taffy, fruit leather, bagels, gum, Starbursts

CALMING activities and strategies

- deep touch pressure
    -deep massage
    -weighted blanket/vest
    -slow brushing
    -bear hugs
- neutral warmth (the body's heat retained)
    -mummy sleeping bag
    -being wrapped in blankets
- slow, rhythmic movement
    -rocking
    -swinging
- decreased physical activity
- sucking
    -thick shake with a straw
    -hard candy
    -popsicle
    -peanut butter
- sweet flavors

ALERTING activities and strategies

- light touch
    -quick brushing
    -koosh ball
    -back scratch
    -light "tickles" with feathers
- cold; i.e. pass around ice cubes
- fast, irregular movement
    -play tag
    -unpredictable rocking, bouncing and swinging
- increased physical activity
- crunchy foods
    -pretzels
    -raw vegetable sticks
    -crackers
    -popcorn
- sour spicy or bitter flavors

Resource:  Down Syndrome News
                 Volume 18 No. 4
                 Page 48


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