Being sensory defensive is a behavior response to stimulus – like noise, visual cues, textures, or touch. Certain stimulus may create barriers to performance.

Occupational therapists are trained to identify ways to modulate the body or modify an environment for reducing the ugly effects or sensory defensive behaviors. We receive sensory defensiveness certification once we learn how to identify unique strategies that may change reactions to stimulus. Role-playing scenarios provides compassion for individuals struggling with defensive behaviors.

One challenge was to lead a peer outdoors. Over ten minutes their eyes remained closed while the leader had free reign to command them to reach, stoop, step…any action to challenge a sensory experience into feeling lost or without defense.

The central nervous system gives the body an ability to sense the respond.

Responsive behaviors are to foster feeling safe and comfortable. Coping techniques adjust feelings of fear or anxiety towards the sense of being calm and in control.

Forms occupying work spaces may directly effect open or defensive behaviors (Cox, Burns, Savage 2004). Every person is uniquely stimulated by forms. Early-age sensory experiences diversify behaviors and reactions. Fight or flight modes may trigger in novel and repetitive experiences. The initial response pioneers a response path to each individual sensation.

A natural tension is created with physical and mental suffering.

Both a physical consequence (like skin pierced by a thorn) or a mental consequence (like feeling lost) will cause a sensation to react. The impact of suffering is based on responsive behaviors that follow the sensation. The action following behavior directly effects performance outcomes including teamwork and productivity.

Questions to Ask:
  1. Does your workplace consistently feel safe and comfortable?
  2. What spaces or objects in the workplace cause feelings of tension?
  3. What workplace policy or procedure appears to conflict with a common behavior standard?

The brain is like a file cabinet. Let’s call it Brain Files. For instance, Pierced Skin may be filed under Scream. Scream may be filed under Pain. Pain under Trust. Get the picture?

All reactions are in the same file cabinet. The body’s initial reaction is in the Sensation Folder which directs which Behavior Folder to go to next. Objects (people, places) touched, seen, heard, smelled open the cabinet.

To modify the Brain Files consider supporting body, mind, soul work through one of our service packages. We are on a mission improving performance and quality of life through environments, activities, people.

GIG Design | Occupational Lifestyle


DESIGN^touch | Materials give tactile experiences that may oppose or support the context of personal beliefs and customs.


DESIGN^body position | Movement may support performance in a variety of occupations such as work, education, or self-care roles.


DESIGN^under-responder | An office space is a built-in environment that effects senses that lead to performance behaviors.
H Cox, I Burns, S Savage, Multisensory environments for leisure: promoting well-being in nursing home residents with dementia, J Gerontol Nurs. 2004 Feb;30(2):37-45.


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