Sensory processing and repetitive behaviours

  • While the sense organs may be functioning effectively, messages are getting scrambled on the way to the brain or during processing.
  • There can often be interdependence of sensory processing –  “when my visual distortions are corrected, I hear better”.
  • By focussing on their repetitive behaviour, the person seeks to block out incoming  sensory stimuli that may tip them into sensory overload. The person  knows what they are doing, it has meaning for them.
  • Rather than trying to reduce repetitive behaviour, use it as the basis of a common language to engage attention and as an opportunity for interaction.
  • We are shifting their attention from solitary self-stimulation to shared activity.


This series of short films shows an extended conversation  between Phoebe Caldwell (DSc, Expert Responsive Communication Practitioner who has worked with autistic people for 45 years) and Janet Gurney (BA, PGCT, Director of Training for Us in a Bus, a service based in Surrey that supports adults and children with profound and multiple learning difficulties and autism).