Sensory Processing

What is Sensory Processing?
Sensory processing is the mechanism the human brain uses to identify, organise and react to sensory information. This information is collected through the sensory organs, transferred to the brain by the nerves and sent to different areas of the brain which correspond to the required actions. 

How does Sensory Processing relate to learning new skills and academic progression?
Our central nervous system and sensory processing systems form the foundation for all development and future learning. When one of these systems is off balance it impacts higher order processing such as eye-hand coordination or postural adjustment, important for handwriting. When these foundation skills are impacted the ability to regulate behaviour and complete academic learning is also affected.

How does Sensory Processing correspond to better performance?
Knowing and understanding the effect each aspect of sensory processing has on your ability to concentrate, focus and feel comfortable will allow students to more easily and reliably reach their optimum level of alertness for study/exams. Individuals will have sensory preferences and theses may vary depending on stress levels and the environment they are in. By understanding where a student fits on the continuum of "sensory processing types" will shape the style of instruction, training and pre-exam preparation that will suit their sensory needs.



Winnie Dunn - Sensory Preferences

Patricia & Julie Willbargar - Sensory Defensiveness

Sherry Shellenberger and Mary Sue Williams - ALERT Program -

Immature Primitive Reflexes

What are primitive reflexes

Gieysztor, Choinska & Paprocka-Browicz define primitive reflexes as “automatic movement patterns that commence during pregnancy and are fully present at birth”. These reflexes are utilised to help development of more complex movements for postural control and balance etc.

Why do they remain immature?

This is an area of ongoing research and there are a multitude of reasons why reflexes remain immature. Some possibilities include trauma during birthing process, lack of tummy time and ongoing ear infections.

What is the significance of retaining primitive reflexes?

If a child has not appropriately integrated these reflexes, this may present in poor motor skills such as difficulties running, jumping, throwing/catching and sitting still. These factors can result in learning and behavioural challenges in the future, if not appropriately addressed. 



Gieysztor, E. Z., Choińska, A. M., & Paprocka-Borowicz, M. (2018). Persistence of primitive reflexes and associated motor problems in healthy preschool children. Archives of Medical Science : AMS, 14(1), 167-173. doi:10.5114/aoms.2016.60503

Fussy Eating and Problem Feeders

Fussy Eaters & Problem Feeders?
While the terms “fussy eaters” and “problem feeders” are often used interchangeably, they are in fact quite distinct. They vary in relation to factors such as severity of reaction to food, time taken to add new foods to diet etc. For example fussy eaters usually have a restricted diet of 30 foods, while problem feeder have typically 20 foods or less in their died. The SOS approach offers a helpful further insights into this difference here.

Contributing factors
Research suggests several reasons to why an individual may be fussy eaters or problem feeders. Some included are (see research for further reading):

  • Difficulties with processing sensory input related to food e.g. smell, texture of food. This means some foods may be rejected even before consumption, due to negative sensory experiences.

  • Limited cognitive categorising of food, some individuals may reject food because it does not fit within their category of what food is

  • Social pressures resulting in negative experiences with food

Associated issues
Fussy eaters and problem feeders are both troubling for a child’s development. In some cases, this may lead to nutritional concerns, due to the limited range of food consumed. It can also be highly distressing and challenging for other family members to deal with, since parents may be constantly battling during meal times.

If you have concerns about your child’s eating habits, you may be interested in exploring our “Love Real Food” group.


Lafraire, J., Rioux, C., Giboreau, A., & Picard, D. (2016). Food rejections in children: Cognitive and social/environmental factors involved in food neophobia and picky/fussy eating behavior. Appetite, 96, 347-357. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2015.09.008

Taylor, C. M., Wernimont, S. M., Northstone, K., & Emmett, P. M. (2015). Picky/fussy eating in children: Review of definitions, assessment, prevalence and dietary intakes. Appetite, 95, 349-359. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2015.07.026

Developmental Delays


At any age, being told your child has a development delay or is behind in their milestone achievements can be a scary experience. The parents that we work with tell us that:

“The only thing more frightening is "thinking" that your child is behind on their milestones and not knowing if they should seek out extra support or wait to see if your child "grows up on their own"

Whilst the ability to roll, babble, crawl, walk and talk are all critical milestones which are easily observed by parents, there are 1000's of mini-milestones that prepare babies, children and teenagers for the next stage of development. These abilities of neuro-developmental maturity form a framework which underpins all age-appropriate skills.

Our team of Occupational Therapists have been trained to observe, recognise and value these mini-milestones which sit as foundations for age-related skills and allow the child to streamline their progress from one skill to another as genetics and evolution science record. In some cases, supporting abilities which have not (or cannot) develop is the best approach when learning age appropriate skills, while for other children and adults, it's necessary to revisit these earlier stages of neuro-development to build pathways, strengthen signals from environmental and sensory cues and then directly practice the skills which have not yet been independently mastered.

The work of Mary Sheridan, Ajay Sharma, Helen Cockerill and the published resources of the University of Virginia, have influenced the recognition and clinical focus on these mini-milestones during our Occupational Therapy assessment and Achievement Plans.


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Following the guidelines set out by the Australian Government's Working with Children with Autism Package our services focus on developing self-regulation using the ALERT Program and directly teaching skills for challenging daily activities. Our Therapist are covered to provide sessions under the FaHCSIA Funding model as well as GP Plans, Mental Healthcare Plan and Diagnostic Criteria Plans (if eligible). As Temple Grandin wrote in 2015 - 

Fear is the main emotion in autism and ...Any little thing that looks out of place, such as a piece of paper blowing in the wind, may cause fear. Objects that make sudden movements are the most fear-provoking. In the wild, sudden movement is feared because predators make sudden movements.

We believe that our role when working with families who have a child(s) with Autism that we work towards helping the whole family build skills around understanding and assisting participation in everyday experiences across many areas of daily life. For it is when we have mastered the skill of understanding how to resolve our challenges, we no longer fear. 
Goals around self-care routines, social gathering, education and learning, fitness and outdoors, sleep, play and relationship with others.are all important when working with families who have a child(s) with Autism.

Reach the Sky.jpg

Jacky Peile has also co-authored a book - "Reach the Sky; Unlocking Gabe's Autism" which is available on and details the story of the very first family Jacky worked with on their Autism journey. Alana, Gabe's mother also shares her advice.  

A free chapter is available here,
or the full copy can be downloaded here

Cathy Lette wrote on Twitter - 

"Congratulations on publishing the book"

To chat about any concerns or questions you have about an Autism diagnosis or improving skills please contact us - 

Book your Quick Chat now -
your opportunity to ask us anything