sensory empathy purple figure imageSensory Empathy subheading image

Sensory Empathy®
: To understand how another person processes sensory stimuli by understanding one's own sensory patterns and processing.

This was the basis of my post-professional master of science in occupational therapy thesis at San Jose State University in 2008: An Educational Program for Caregivers on the Sensory Needs of Developmentally Disabled Adults. It was focused on an occupational therapist being an appropriate professional to provide continuing education to caregivers to help then understand the concepts of sensory processing as it pertains to them and how this understanding could improve the quality of life of the developmentally disabled adults or consumers* they are working with. Since then, I have found this is an evolving process that does not have "cookbook" types of solutions.

This is primarily an educational website that focuses on developing sensory empathy, the adolescent and adult developmentally disabled population, the caregivers, family or professional that provide direct or indirect services and nonverbal communication. There is an emphasis on multisensory environments, in-house day programming and one example called the Decoupage Project.

I currently consult with nine group homes but much of the emphasis and learning is from and at four of the homes. They were also the focus of my graduate work and thesis.  Aveley Place, previously owned by San Diego Rady Children’s Hospital, was the first group home I worked in starting in August 2003 and the owner and I share a common goal of introducing a multisensory environment and staff training. At the other five homes my role is slightly different, yet I try to incorporate my philosophy into my contact with the consumers at those homes.

* Consumer is used by the California Department of Developmental Services to define a client that has developmental
disabilities and is a utilizer of services.


Cuvo, A.J., May, M.E., & Post, T.M. (2001). Effects of living room, Snoezelen room and outdoor activities on stereotypic
behavior and engagement by adults with profound mental retardation. Research in Developmental Disabilities,
22(3). 183-204.

Dunn, W. (2001), The 2001 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture. The sensations of everyday life: empirical, theorectical, and
pragmatic considerations. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55(6), 6008-620.

Dunn, W. (2008). Living Sensationally: Understanding Your Senses. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Dychawy-Rosner, I., Eklund, M., & Isacsson, A. (2001). Caring dynamics as perceived by staff supporting daily
occupations for developmentally disabled adults. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Services, 15(2), 123-132.

Hanschu, B. (2004). Using a sensory approach for adults with developmental disabilities. In M. Ross& S. Bachner (Eds),
Adults with developmental disabilities-Current approaches in occupational therapy (pp. 71-113). Bethesda, MD:
AOTA Press.

Lloyd, M., & Carson, A. (2005). Culture shift: Carer empowerment and cooperative inquiry. Journal of Emotional and
Behavioral Disorders, 12, 187-191.

McClure, S. (2008). An Educational Program for Caregivers on the Sensory Needs of Developmentally Disabled Adults.
Unpublished Master's thesis, San Jose State University, San Jose, Ca.

Miller,L.J., Ansalone, M.E., Lane, S.J., Cermak, S.S. & Osten, E.T. (2007). Concept evolution in sensory intergration:
A proposed nosology for diagnosis. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61(2), 135-140.

Wilken, C., & Isaacson, M. (2005). Educating caregivers of geriatric rehabilitation consumers. Topics in Geriatric
Rehabilitation,21(4), 265-274.

Susan F. McClure, MS, OTR/L

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