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Sensory Needs Checklist: How to identify a person’s specific sensory needs

What are Sensory Needs?

Our senses play a critical role in our everyday lives. They allow us to experience and interact with the world around us, and when our sensory needs are not met, it can have a significant impact on our well-being.

Reasons for Sensory Needs

Sensory needs are the requirements our body has for input from the environment to function effectively. Every individual has their unique sensory profile, and some individuals may have a higher or lower sensory threshold than others. The reasons for sensory needs can vary, but they may include:

Neurological Differences: Some individuals may have neurological differences that affect their ability to process sensory information effectively.

Trauma: Individuals who have experienced trauma may have altered sensory processing as a result.

Developmental Differences: Children with developmental differences, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), may have unique sensory needs.

Symptoms of Unmet Sensory Needs

When an individual’s sensory needs are not met, it can result in a range of symptoms, including:

  • Overwhelm or shutdown in response to sensory input.
  • Difficulty focusing or staying alert.
  • Discomfort or pain in response to certain sensory experiences.
  • Sensory-seeking behaviors, such as fidgeting or seeking out certain textures or sounds.

Importance of Sensory Needs Checklist

A sensory needs checklist is a valuable tool that can help individuals identify their unique sensory needs and develop strategies to address them. It is especially helpful for individuals with sensory processing difficulties or those who may not be aware of their sensory needs. The checklist helps individuals to:

  • Understand their individual sensory profile and preferences.
  • Identify triggers that may lead to sensory overload or shutdown.
  • Develop strategies to address their sensory needs and prevent sensory overload or shutdown.

Creating a Sensory Needs Checklist: A Guide to Designing Your Own

A sensory needs checklist is a helpful tool that can aid in identifying and managing an individual’s sensory needs. By completing a sensory needs checklist, an individual can better understand their sensory profile and preferences, identify sensory triggers, and develop strategies to address their needs.

Key Components of a Sensory Needs Checklist

A sensory needs checklist typically includes a list of sensory experiences, such as sounds, textures, tastes, and smells. The checklist may also include a rating scale, which allows the individual to rate each sensory experience as enjoyable, neutral, or overwhelming. The checklist may also include space for notes or comments about each sensory experience.

Steps to Designing Your Own Sensory Needs Checklist

  1. Determine the Sensory Experiences to Include: Start by brainstorming a list of sensory experiences that are relevant to the individual. Consider all five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Be sure to include both positive and negative sensory experiences.
  2. Organize the Sensory Experiences: Once you have identified the sensory experiences to include, organize them into categories. For example, you may group sensory experiences by type, such as touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound.
  3. Create a Rating Scale: Create a rating scale that allows the individual to rate each sensory experience as enjoyable, neutral, or overwhelming. This rating scale will provide a clear picture of the individual’s sensory preferences and needs.
  4. Include Space for Notes or Comments: Providing space for notes or comments allows the individual to provide more detail about their experiences and to note any specific triggers or strategies that they have found helpful.
  5. Make the Checklist User-Friendly: Keep the checklist simple and easy to use. Use clear and concise language and make sure the format is visually appealing and easy to read.
  6. Personalize the Checklist: Customize the checklist to meet the individual’s needs. For example, you may include sensory experiences that are unique to the individual or add additional categories that are relevant to their specific situation.

How to Use the Sensory Needs Checklist

To use the sensory needs checklist, follow these simple steps:

  • Download and print a sensory needs checklist that is appropriate for your age and needs.
  • Complete the checklist by indicating which sensory experiences are enjoyable, neutral, or overwhelming.
  • Identify patterns or trends in your sensory profile and use this information to develop strategies to address your sensory needs.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional or occupational therapist if you need further guidance in addressing your sensory needs.

Sensory needs are an essential aspect of our overall well-being, and addressing them can have a significant impact on our quality of life. By using a sensory needs checklist and developing strategies to address our unique sensory needs, we can manage our symptoms and improve our overall well-being.

The following is an example of a sensory needs checklist that includes common sensory preferences and needs:

  1. Auditory Preferences: a) Enjoys listening to music or other sounds b) Becomes upset by loud or sudden noises c) Likes quiet environments or prefers background noise
  2. Tactile Preferences: a) Enjoys being touched or hugged b) Dislikes certain textures or fabrics c) Seeks out or avoids certain types of touch, such as rough or gentle
  3. Visual Preferences: a) Enjoys bright or colorful environments b) Dislikes bright lights or flashing lights c) Prefers low lighting or natural light
  4. Smell Preferences: a)Enjoys or dislikes certain scents or odors b) Sensitive to smells or avoids certain environments with strong smells
  5. Taste Preferences: a)Enjoys or dislikes certain tastes or textures of food b)Avoids certain foods or has a limited diet
  6. Movement Preferences: a) Enjoys or seeks out movement, such as swinging or spinning b) Dislikes or avoids movement, such as heights or fast movement c) Needs breaks or movement breaks during activities

Using a sensory needs checklist can help identify a person’s specific sensory needs and preferences, which can inform treatment and accommodations to improve their sensory experiences and overall quality of life. For example, if a child has a sensitivity to loud noises, an accommodation may be made to provide noise-cancelling headphones or a quiet space to help reduce sensory overload. Alternatively, if a child seeks out movement, a sensory diet that incorporates movement breaks can be established to help regulate their sensory input.


In conclusion, a sensory needs checklist can be a helpful tool for identifying an individual’s sensory preferences and needs, which can inform accommodations and treatments to improve their sensory experiences and overall functioning. It is important to work with a qualified healthcare professional or therapist to determine the best course of action based on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances.

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