Sensory/Behavior Therapy Guides for SLPs

Step-by-Step plans for a variety of skills that often come up when working with children with sensory or behavior problems – Plus, wording for your goals!

What is Task Analysis?

Task analysis is the process of breaking a larger skill down into smaller, sequential steps.  With each step that the child masters, he grows closer to being able to perform the full skill independently.  Tasks analysis is an evidence-based instructional method which has been found especially effective for children who do not respond to regular instruction, which makes it perfect for the children on our case loads.

While the process of task analysis has been studied and backed by research, there aren’t always agreed-upon ways to break down a skill.  Every SLP may have a slightly different method of breaking down skills into step-by-step plans.  What’s important is that the steps are achievable and sequential so that the child sees incremental success on the way to learning a new skill.

The following therapy guides represent our task analysis for each skill.  You’ll also find sample text for your goals.

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  • Therapy ideas for each step below
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Our Step-By-Step Guides:

How to Use:
Click the skill that you’d like to expand.  You’ll find our task analysis of the steps you can follow in therapy to teach that skill.  You’ll also find sample text to include in yoru goal writing.  To get detailed therapy activities for each step below, please join our membership program to get access to the full Therapy Activity Database.

*** NOTE:  It is important that we let our children who stim have time to do it.  It meets a very important sensory function and repressing it usually means that it will show up in some other way, often in destructive or harmful behaviors.  However, sometimes, it is necessary to intervene in stimming behaviors.  When those behaviors become self-harming or harmful to others, it is important that we help the child find other ways to get that sensory need met.  We also sometimes find that older children are seeking ways to stop their stimming because it is affecting them socially or for other personal reasons.  We should not try to force a child to change or eliminate stimming behaviors just because we want them to look “normal”, but if a child is coming to us and asking for help, then it is completely ethical to help them find other ways to get their sensory needs met.

Finally, it is important to note that working on stimming behaviors does not fall wholly into our scope of practice.  An occupational therapist should definitely be involved in the process of working on stimming behaviors.  However, we will focus in this guide on the communication piece of dealing with harmful or disruptive stimming behaviors.  We have the tools to help children learn to communicate with us about their sensory needs and help use communication to get those needs met.
  1. Identify the Behavior and Unmet Sensory Need: Working with an occupational therapist (OT), identify what the stimming behavior is and what unmet sensory need may be causing it.
  2. Try Replacement Behaviors to Meet That Need: Working with an OT, try some possible sensory activities and behaviors that may also address that sensory need but that are less harmful or disruptive.
  3. Teach the Child to Ask for That Activity: Help the child learn how to identify when he needs that sensory activity or behavior and use language to communicate that need or get the need met himself.
  1. Limit distractions as much as possible
  2. Ask other adults what the child likes
  3. Bring in new materials that the child hasn’t seen yet
  4. Do a reinforcer probe: SLP will hold up two objects and allow the child to have the one that he looks at or engages with.  After a bit of play, the item is placed in a “preferred” basket and another two options are selected.  This process continues until a small selection of toys has been chosen as preferred.  Options inlcude: 
    • Toys with lights
    • Toys that make sounds
    • Sensory input activities: bouncing on a ball, tickles, hugs, swinging, spinning around, bouncing on knee, flipping upside down
    • Food
    • Bubbles
    • Wind-Up Toys
    • Toys that change or move (visually)
    • Toys with different textures
  5. Differential Reinforcement for Joint Attention: SLP will present a preferred object and give the child the object for the following actions:
    • Reward at first for proximity (getting closer to what they want) or body orientation (turning their body toward what they want)
    • Gradually increase difficulty level of what they have to do to get the reward:
      • Look in the general direction
      • Looking at object/you
      • Reaching for it
      • Pointing at it
      • Pointing and looking at you
  1. Collect Data about the Behavior: The SLP (or other professional) will collect data about the challenging behavior.
  2. Determine the Function of the Behavior: The SLP (or other professional) will analyze the data and determine the function(s) of the behavior.
  3. Choose Replacement Behavior: The SLP (or other professional) will choose an appropriate replacement behavior to teach instead of the mal-adaptive behavior
  4. Teach Replacement Behavior: The SLP (or other professional) will teach the replacement behavior to the child and practice it in structured environments
  5. Generalize Replacement Behavior: The SLP (or other professional) will provide feedback and reinforcement to help the child generalize the replacement behavior to the natural environment.  The Staff will also fade the effectiveness of the old behavior.
  1. Identify a Behavior to Teach: The SLP will identify a behavior to teach that will either reduce the use of maladaptive behaviors or support the child socially.
  2. Take pictures of the child doing those behaviors: The SLP will stage photos of the child doing the expected behavior.
  3. Put the pictures together in a book: The SLP will use positive “I” statements to write a story about the expected behavior.
  4. Read the book and act it out: Student will attend to a social story being read about expected behavior.  Student will then participate in a role-playing scenario to practice the expected behavior.
  5. Refer to the Book for “Re-Dos” in Natural Environment: After situations where the expected behavior should have occurred but did not, Student will participate in a “re-do” with an adult by referencing the social story for the expected behavior and role-playing the expected behavior in the specific situation that occurred.  
  6. Generalization of Skill to Other Environments: Student will follow adult prompts and cues to use the expected behavior in a variety of environments.

What Do I Do in Therapy?

If you’re still not sure what to do in therapy, don’t worry!  We have more resources for you!  The full Therapy Activity Database (available only to paid members) contains detailed descriptions of what you can do in therapy for each of the steps listed above.  Join today to get all of the therapy ideas, worksheets, and support!