Sweetening the Sensory Journey: 15 Positive Reinforcement Techniques for SPD

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can present unique challenges for children, making it difficult to navigate the sensory world and regulate their emotions. Fortunately, positive reinforcement techniques can be powerful tools for promoting desired behaviors, fostering self-regulation, and improving overall well-being for children with SPD.

Positive reinforcement involves rewarding desired behaviors with positive consequences, increasing the likelihood that those behaviors will be repeated in the future. This approach focuses on building upon strengths and encouraging progress, creating a more positive and supportive learning environment.

Here are 15 examples of positive reinforcement techniques used for SPD, with situations and possible behavior interventions:

 Verbal Praise:

    • Situation: A child with SPD washes their hands independently.
    • Intervention: “Wow! You did a great job washing your hands all by yourself! I’m so proud of you.”

 High Fives and Hugs:

  • Situation: A child with SPD sits through a busy classroom environment without becoming overwhelmed.
  • Intervention: “You did such a good job staying calm and focused in class today! Here’s a high five!”

Stickers and Tokens:

  • Situation: A child with SPD participates in a sensory integration activity like swinging or jumping.
  • Intervention: “You earned a sticker for trying the new swing today! You’re getting braver every day.”

 Preferred Activities:

  • Situation: A child with SPD completes their homework assignments without distractions.
  • Intervention: “You finished all your homework! As a reward, we can play your favorite board game together.”

Special Treats:

  • Situation: A child with SPD uses their calm voice to express their needs instead of screaming.
  • Intervention: “You used your words so nicely to tell me what you wanted! That was very grown-up of you. Here’s a small treat for being so good.”

Sensory Rewards:

  • Situation: A child with SPD participates in a social interaction with peers without becoming anxious.
  • Intervention: “You had such a great time playing with your friends! You earned some time with your favorite sensory toy.”

Short Breaks:

  • Situation: A child with SPD becomes overwhelmed during a long task.
  • Intervention: “You’ve been working hard for a while. Let’s take a short break to play outside and come back to it later.”

Choice Making:

  • Situation: A child with SPD is hesitant to try a new food.
  • Intervention: “Would you like to try the green beans or the carrots first?”

Visual Schedules and Charts:

  • Situation: A child with SPD struggles with transitions between activities.
  • Intervention: “Let’s look at our schedule together to see what comes next.”

Social Stories:

  • Situation: A child with SPD has anxiety about going to the doctor.
  • Intervention: “Reading a social story about going to the doctor can help your child understand what to expect and feel more prepared.”

Sensory Integration Activities:

  • Situation: A child with SPD seeks sensory input through repetitive behaviors.
  • Intervention: “Instead of spinning your chair, let’s try this fun swing activity together. It will give you that same feeling of movement.”

Collaborative Problem Solving:

  • Situation: A child with SPD has difficulty sharing toys with other children.
  • Intervention: “Let’s work together to find a way you can share your toys and still have fun playing with your friends.”

Relaxation Techniques:

  • Situation: A child with SPD is feeling overwhelmed and needs to calm down.
  • Intervention: “Let’s take a few deep breaths together and try some relaxation techniques like counting or listening to calming music.”

Positive Self-Talk:

  • Situation: A child with SPD becomes discouraged when they make a mistake.
  • Intervention: “Everyone makes mistakes! It’s important to be kind to yourself and remember that you’re learning and growing.”

Celebrating Milestones:

  • Situation: A child with SPD overcomes a major challenge or reaches a significant milestone.
  • Intervention: “You’ve worked so hard to achieve this goal! I’m so proud of you! Let’s celebrate your success together.”


  • Every child with SPD is unique and will respond differently to various interventions. It is crucial to use positive reinforcement techniques consistently and tailor them to the individual child’s needs and preferences. By focusing on celebrating successes and promoting positive behaviors, we can create a supportive environment that empowers children with SPD to thrive and reach their full potential.

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