Is it Sensory? Or is it Behavior? Assessment and Intervention Tools for OTs, PTs, and SLPs

October 10-11, 2020

Find the underlying causes of challenging behavior and improve functional outcomes by assessing and treating visual and vestibular disorders, motor challenges, and specific diagnosis. Participants will learn how to effectively communicate with teachers and caregivers, and create comprehensive treatment plans to be used in multiple domains of the child’s life.

This workshop will focus on the underlying causes of challenging behavior that impact performance and functional outcomes. Clinicians will learn how to differentiate between the sensory processing problems and the behavioral/emotional problems in order to develop an integrated approach to intervention. We will specifically address visual and vestibular processing disorders that impact social skills and school performance as the key to designing effective, integrated treatment for improved sensory processing, motor skills, and behavior. This course will create a paradigm shift and give participants a “new lens” with which they can assess clients. Participants will learn to assess the subtle motor and sensory deficits that maybe contributing to attention, learning, motor, and behavioral challenges and, most importantly, will learn concrete contextual strategies, as well as treatment techniques to apply immediately. Collaborative and consultative approaches will be highlighted to promote function, participation, and engagement. Patient Population: Autism, PDD, Developmental Delays, Sensory Processing Disorders, and ADHD Infancy through Adult.

OTs, PTs, Assistants, and SLPs who work with individuals with special needs. Patient Population: Autism, PDD, Developmental Delays, Sensory Processing Disorders, and ADHD.

Course Objectives

Participants will be able to apply course learning immediately to:

  • Analyze the role of sensory processing in the development of attention, social skills, and visual perception.
  • Identify subtle signs of visual-vestibular and other sensory-motor dysfunction.
  • Apply integrated assessment techniques and how to develop measurable school and/or clinic-based goals.
  • Identify red flags that warrant referral to a behavioral vision specialist.
  • Develop effective treatment protocols for the clinic, home, and school.
  • Implement strategies for sharing information with parents and teachers for optimal outcomes.


Texas Children's Hospital
Feigin Center
1102 Bates, 14th floor conference room D
Houston, Texas 77030

Cost -  


Earned credits -  

13 contact hours or CCU’s through TPTA and TOTA

Registration - Register online


An accomplished lecturer, Debra Dickson is a pediatric physical therapist, owner of Therapy Works Pediatrics, LLC, in Connecticut, and creator of the clinically-acclaimed BEAR HUG vest. Ms. Dickson is NDT-certified in pediatrics and has a strong background n sensory processing, nutrition, and immune function as they relate to children with developmental disabilities. Together with Anne Buckley-Reen, she developed a program for therapists entitled “The Whole Child:  S.A.N.E. Strategies for Success”. They are currently co-authoring The Whole Child Handbook, which incorporates a multisystem approach to understanding developmental disorders and successful strategies for improving function. Ms. Dickson lectures both locally and nationally and sits on the professional advisory committees of several nonprofit agencies.

Financial: Debra Dickson receives a speaking fee from Education Resources for this course and she has a financial relationship with Southpaw Enterprises for the sale of Bear Hug, Sensory Snakes, and Blankets.
Non-Financial: She has no relevant non-financial relationships to disclose.


08:30-09:00  Registration/Continental Breakfast

09:00-10:30  Sensory Systems Development Birth to Adult, The Integrated Visual/Vestibular System: Its Role in Attention and Modulation

  • Visual/Vestibular/Auditory/Triad
  • Vestibulo-Postural Connections
  • Cerebellum, Bilateral Integration, and Fluency

10:30-12:00  Motor Development as it relates to visual attention, learning, and behavior

  • Bilateral Integration, Core Tone/Strength, and Visual Motor Skills
  • Role of the Visual/Vestibular System in Motor Development
  • Sensory-Motor Connections to Attention/Arousal/Movement and Space/Time
  • With challenges such as impulsivity and difficulty with transitions
  • VOR: The importance of the Vestibular Ocular Reflex in school and social function, and how to identify deficits

12:00-01:00  LUNCH (on your own)

01:00-03:00  “He knows better” Understanding Cognitive and Sensory Neurological Discrepancies that impact behavior

  • Identifying Sensory-Motor and Visual Motor challenges impacting function
  • Working with Behavioral Optometrists for improved functional outcome
  • Visual/Vestibular/Auditory Triad and therapies such as Therapeutic Listening

03:00-05:00  Biochemical issues that Impact Sensory Processing Dysfunction in:

  • ADHD, Autism, PDD, LD, Dyspraxia, Developmental Delays, and Sensory Processing Disorders
    • Nutritional issues that impact Sensory Processing, learning, and behavior
    • Collaborative strategies with parents, caregivers, and school personnel
    • Video case studies of Sensory-Behavioral Connections


07:30-08:00  Continental Breakfast

08:00-09:30  Assessment: Observations:  hat to look for?

  • Not just “can” he do it?  But “how” does he do it?  More on observation
  • History:  Questions to ask
  • Identifying the subtle motor issues (videos)
  • Visual Motor Assessments
  • Sensory-Motor Assessments
  • S.A.N.E. Assessment

09:30-11:00  Assessment continued: Developing measurable goals for:

  • Sensory/Motor challenges
  • Visual/Vestibular challenges
  • Behavior challenges
  • Sharing information and teaching others
  • Gaining compliance from family, schools, and vocational programs

11:00-12:00  Developing Comprehensive Treatment Plans: School/Home/Clinic (with videos)

  • Activities for the classroom
  • Activities for home programs
  • Choosing the right activities for the right outcomes
  • Techniques to improve the VOR for improved school and social function
  • Developing S.A.N.E. Strategies for Success
  • Attention and behavior
  • Designing environments for success

12:00-01:00  LUNCH  (on your own)

01:00-02:00  Developing Comprehensive Treatment Plans (continued)

02:00-04:00  Comprehensive Treatment Plans continued (with videos)

  • Tracking methods to monitor progress sharing information with others to create a paradigm shift and gain “buy in”, and create a team approach
  • Our role as teachers can provide the best “therapy” for the client
  • It’s not “either-or”…Sensory or Behavior:  Working with behaviorists to design effective programs

Two 15-minute breaks will be scheduled each day


Wyndham Medical Center
6800 Main
Houston, Texas 77030
Nightly rate: $115.00 (price varies based on room availability)

Ask for Texas Children’s Hospital ESP Rate

Hotel Registration link