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Observation: Complex Sensory Needs

This is a casestudy about an older boy with complex needs who is very busy developing his sensory foundations. He appears to gain a lot from developmental movement play opportunities. 

At the end of the case study the JABADAO team reflects on why some of us find it hard to sit still and how movement helps us to feel right.

Teacher, Special School, Driffield, E. Yorks

FRANK IS A Key Stage 3 pupil at our Special School. He is working at level P3, putting him in the PMLD group (pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties). He displays many challenging  behaviours in the classroom, finding it difficult to sit for extended periods at a desk working on typical lesson-based activities. 

During Developmental Movement Play time Frank’s behaviour is noticeably different. He interacts, initiates communication verbally and non-verbally, uses eye contact and SMILES! 

Frank engages with each DMP activity, often choosing and expressing preferences. He particularly enjoys energetic ‘rough and tumble’ play.


We have observed much improved interaction with staff and other pupils during DMP. Frank obviously enjoys this time. 

Our challenge now is to provide him with more DMP time and activities. His behaviour in class often deteriorates after sessions as he craves the attention and physical activity he has had in the Developmental Movement Play. 

Of course there are many aspects to Frank and we’re only looking at body and movement things here. 

It’s hard to sit still if you don’t have strong and constant feedback of the felt sense of your body. In our early development we need to build that internal, felt sense so well that it will remain strong at all times - moving or still.

That’s the crucial bit. 

Moving gives us more of a sense of our body. Some of us need to keep on the move in order to keep that sense going. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to chose movement or stillness and have it remain strongly in place either way. 

Perhaps Frank moves because he feels much more ‘right ‘ in his body when he does. If so, why would he stop moving? 

It may be no wonder he particularly like ‘rough and tumble’ as it is likely to give him a stronger, firmer sense of himself at a most basic level. No wonder it is hard to give that up when a session is finished. 

In short, Frank loves putting lots of sensation into his body so he can build his sensory foundations. Lots of big movement does just that.

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