Sensory Support Plans in the IEP

iep sensory sensory processing disorder special education Nov 19, 2022

"Michael will receive sensory breaks, as needed", is a common statement I see in IEPs.

Unfortunately, that statement doesn't tell me a whole lot about Michael and his sensory needs.

If I'm Michael's teacher, I'm left guessing about what Michael needs from me to support him throughout the school day.

If I'm Michael's parent, I'm assuming the school team knows what to do to support my son and his sensory needs. In fact, we may have even talked about it at the IEP meeting.

But, this general statement of "sensory breaks", is a conflict waiting to happen. 

We need MORE DETAILS inside the IEP to tell us what sensory supports work, don't work, and how they should be used for each and every student who requires sensory support.

This includes details, such as:

  • How often a child may need a sensory break on a "good day"
  • How sensory breaks may be supportive on a "difficult day"
  • Duration and Activities
  • Transition Supports In/Out of the Sensory Support Time
  • Activities to Avoid During Sensory Support Time

There are a few places sensory support details can be placed inside the IEP.

  • Accommodations/Modifications/Supplementary Aids and Services Section
  • A Dedicated Sensory Support Plan Added to the IEP
  • The Notes Section (although I don't recommend this since the details tend to get lost)

Maybe your IEP team is choosing another place within the document to get specific about sensory supports and that's okay! As long as you have the detailed plan in writing, you're good to go.

But, there's another important step... STAFF TRAINING.

A detailed sensory support plan can only be effective if the school team is aware of how to implement the plan.

This means that more than one person needs to know how to execute sensory supports for a student.

There's a section in your IEP called "supports for personnel" (or something similar depending on the IEP program your school uses) and within that section, you can list out any pieces of training the team needs to fully execute the IEP. This includes training on Sensory Support Plans!

If you're struggling to get BOTH steps accomplished as a parent or a teacher when it comes to supporting a child's sensory needs, please join us in the Master IEP Coach Mentorship. Our next session includes LIVE training and can ask ALL your IEP questions! LOOK HERE

One more thing - there is a huge step that we didn't talk about. If you truly want a successful Sensory Support Plan in a child's IEP, you MUST create the plan based on DATA! 

If collecting data, creating a detailed plan, inputting the plan into the IEP, and making sure all IEP team members are trained on the plan sounds like an almost impossible task, let's work together!

See all the options for working together here.

P.S. I did a little searching on Amazon for you after getting many requests about the bubble wall in my video. The bubble wall in my video is from a sensory room in Indiana that I explored while teaching an IEP workshop for the Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Indiana. I couldn't find the exact one online, but here are a few that look awesome!


Playlearn Sensory Bubble Wall - Giant 6 Foot Water Feature - Gorgeous Display - Color Changing Floor Lamp - APP Controlled - Calming Effect

This one is probably closest to the one that was in the sensory room that I visited. See it on Amazon here.

But, I'll be completely honest with you... I found many smaller ones for your home that might make more sense for easy use and accessibility. There's no reason to hide sensory supports in one room (unless a child REALLY wants to be separate from everyone for a bit), which is why I love this one that you can hang on your wall!

Bubble Panel Wall Mount Hanging Fountain 300WM Bubble Wall (Silver with Smartphone Controller)

Bubble Wall Mount, Hanging Fountain


Or maybe you want to add some fun with an aquarium feel!

Bubble Aquarium Tank

And let's not forget the good old-fashioned lava lamp!

JAMBO 16-Inch Beautiful Lamp with Wax That Flows Like Lava (Blue with Yellow/Green Wax, 16 Inch), Relaxing Night Light Nighlight Home Decor Living Room Office Bedroom Lamp for Adults, Teens, and Kids

Here's a best seller on Amazon. I wanted one of these so bad when I was a kid!


Catherine Whitcher, M.Ed
Master IEP Coach®, Founder
Contact Catherine at


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