#285 - Tips for Improving Organization of Behavior

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC December 06, 2023

#285 - Tips for Improving Organization of Behavior

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Tips for Improving Organization of Behavior

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In this episode, we explore the fascinating topic of organization of behavior in children and how occupational therapy can play a crucial role in addressing these challenges - and how parents can use the same strategies at home!

We start by talking about how to identify sensory preferences, then jump into using specific sensory activities to meet sensory needs.

We also give tips for adding emotions into the sensory activities, practicing specific sensory strategies for when the child feels disorganized and dysregulated, and finally we touch on how to use the strategies in different situations.

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Article: Organization of Behavior



Tips for Improving Organization of Behavior 

Organization of behavior pertains to how individuals process sensory information and generate suitable adaptive responses based on sensory input. It is an essential aspect of human functioning and plays a crucial role in everyday life, affecting how we learn, interact with others, and navigate our surroundings.

What Is A Behavioral Adaptive Response? 

A child finds solace on a park swing, embracing the rhythmic motion that brings harmony to their nervous system. With grace, they effortlessly transition to other activities - play or school - with unwavering focus; it is a testament to their adaptability and resilience.

If a child is disorganized by swinging, they may exhibit excessive energy and restlessness, making it difficult to remain seated and focused. This can disrupt their sensory processing, causing inappropriate responses to environmental stimuli.

Common Interferences With Behavior Organization 

Children may experience challenges with sensory processing, delays in language development, anxiety, stress, and disrupted sleep patterns. These factors can significantly impact their behavioral responses, leading to either overstimulation or understimulation. 

Children facing these interferences exhibit self-regulation, attention, and impulse control difficulties. Furthermore, they may encounter challenges in planning, prioritizing, and organizing their daily activities, leading to academic setbacks and social seclusion.

Improving The Organization of Behavior

As parents, therapists, or teachers, we are responsible for fostering the growth and improvement of organizational behavior in children. Here, we present five impactful strategies that can effectively promote enhanced behavioral organization.

Exploring Sensory Preferences

To effectively address the child's needs, it is crucial to identify various aspects: 

  • Are they seeking sensory stimulation? 
  • Do they require vestibular input? 
  • Are they avoiding auditory input? 
  • Are they overwhelmed by the bustling room or the therapeutic environment?

To thoroughly understand a child's sensory needs, collaborate with parents and have them complete the sensory profile. The therapist can gain valuable insights by observing the child's behavior and sensory requirements during clinic activities.

Engage In Targeted Sensory Activities

Therapists can tailor sensory activities to address a child's specific needs based on their sensory profile. For instance, if a child seeks vestibular input, integrating movement and balance equipment during therapy sessions can effectively regulate their behavior.

To support children who are avoiding tactile input, introducing tactile activities such as finger-painting or playdough can aid in desensitization to touch. Offering a range of sensory activities can assist children in regulating their behavior and enhancing their ability to engage in tasks that require organization.

Strategies for Identifying Triggers

For children easily overwhelmed by noise, using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones during activities with high noise levels can minimize sensory overload. Similarly, dimming lights or wearing sunglasses can assist children sensitive to bright lights.

Introducing a program like the Zones of Regulation may be helpful, which can effectively empower individuals to address their emotions and develop essential self-regulation skills through meaningful discussions about various situations.

Social stories are a versatile and effective strategy used in various settings, including home and clinical environments. To begin, identify situations where a child experiences anxiety, anger, or frustration. 

Create a visual representation of the situation by drawing a picture and writing a brief description. Then, develop various strategies tailored to the child's needs and preferences.

To captivate children with an interactive activity, consider teaching them to identify and comprehend emotions through engaging games. As they roll the dice or extract Jenga blocks, they can actively join discussions or pen thoughtful responses based on the diverse situations presented.

Implement These Strategies In Real-Time 

Taking proactive steps to identify and address disruptions to a child's behavioral organization is crucial. Implement these strategies when the child is disorganized and frustrated, but wait until they have regained composure.

Engaging in a deep and meaningful conversation can be quite a task when a child is in a state of fight or flight or experiencing agitation. In such instances, minimizing your speech and focusing on creating a soothing environment is advisable. 

Rather than simply quizzing or questioning their actions, we must focus on understanding and empathizing with their emotions. For instance, instead of bluntly asking, "Why did you do that?" we can gently inquire, "What might have caused your frustration when Johnny took the ball from you?" 

By embracing this approach, we can cultivate a nurturing and compassionate environment. Engaging in these conversations during moments of calm and organization is vital, aiding individuals in finding relaxation, co-regulation, acknowledging their emotions, and discovering effective strategies they can utilize.

Generalization In Various Situations And Environments

Visual presentation of information significantly enhances information processing compared to auditory input. Utilizing visual aids, like a key ring with picture cards, offers a convenient way to carry strategies with you, ensuring accessibility and practicality.

Consistency in language is crucial for educators, therapists, grandparents, and daycare providers. Encouraging parents to use clinical approaches at home fosters generalization and promotes positive outcomes.

Transformation Takes Time And Patience

Enhancing the organization of behavior is no easy task; it requires time, practice, and unwavering consistency. Creating and sustaining a dedicated and supportive environment is crucial throughout this transformative journey. 





While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC
Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC

Rachel Harrington, COTA/l, AC, CPRCS, and Jessica Hill, COTA/L, CPRCS are Harkla's in-house Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA) and Certified Primitive Reflex Clinical Specialists. They have been working with children for over 6 years in outpatient settings. They specialize in creating easy-to-digest, actionable content that families can use to help their child's progress at home. Jessica and Rachel are the in-house experts, content creators, and podcast hosts at Harkla! To learn more about Jessica and Rachel, visit the Harkla About Us Page. Make sure to listen to their weekly podcast, All Things Sensory by Harkla for actionable, fun advice on child development.

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