The SIPT in practice – Social Skills

This the first of a three-part series of blog posts written by Master’s Student Conor Duggan while on placement at OTFC and OTFC+. It was a great learning experience for her, but it also provides tremendous insight into one of the most commonly used assessment tools at our practices. Enjoy and feel free to pass along to others that may be interested…

Here at OTFC we use standardised assessments to ensure that we can develop an effective plan to provide targeted treatment to every child in line with their goals. The Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) is comprised of 17 sub-tests each measuring several aspects of the sensory system. But what do these subtests mean and how do they align with your goals and the everyday challenges your child may be experiencing?? In this blog series we will provide an overview of how particular subtests on the SIPT relate to common goals for families. In this section, we will focus on some of the sub-tests that are relevant to the goal of developing Social Skills.

Figure Ground Perception

What you will see in the assessment:

A range of pictures are presented to the child. Each picture is comprised of three images on top of one another– the child needs to choose which pictures are in the composite. It measures the child’s ability to focus on targeted visual features of the image whilst filtering out a competing background.

How it’s relevant to everyday life:

Being able to focus on one aspect of visual information through competing stimuli is needed for children to locate their particular friends in a group of children at recess. In school or at home this ability is necessary to find an object on a desk or an item in the pantry/fridge; or to locate key information on a whiteboard.

Postural Praxis

What you will see:

The therapist encourages the child to imitate 17 postures demonstrated by the therapist and hold for up to 7 seconds. It measures the child’s ability to use tactile and body awareness to plan how to move the body to imitate the postures.

How it’s relevant:

Being able to interpret and imitate positions is important for children to respond to gestures from peers and teachers. Children are excellent motivators for one another, and those who can imitate easily had the advantage of learning new ways of performing tasks/activities and joining in games.

Oral Praxis

What you will see:

The child copies the therapist’s facial expressions and movements of the tongue, teeth, lips, cheeks and jaw. It measures the child’s ability to rely on the senses of touch and body positioning to be able to plan and move their tongue, teeth lips, cheeks and jaw in relation to one another. Being able to sense positioning and move one’s tongue teeth, lips and cheeks in a coordinated manner is essential for verbal expression, clarity of speech and communication. For this reason, speech pathologists will often use perform similar assessments.

How it’s relevant:

In a busy classroom, in the school yard and at home children need to interpret the subtle facial expressions of their peers, teachers and family members in order to understand what is happening and respond appropriately.


What you will see:

With the child’s vision shielded, the therapist places the child’s finger on a dot on a piece of paper then moves the child’s finger along a path to another point. The therapist returns the child’s finger to the starting position and asks them to find their way to the second point. It measures the child’s ability to use touch and body awareness senses to move their hands and arms in space accurately; and their ability to adjust their posture as needed to move an arm without a whole-body adjustment

How it’s relevant:

Awareness of position is a critical function easily missed if not assessed. Children with poor position sense can often be seen to “invade” others’ personal space and activities. It is needed for playground games and activities, social interactions, and even sitting appropriately in class or at a desk.


Ayres, A. J. (1989). The Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests manual. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.

Bodison, S., & Mailloux, Z. (2006). The sensory integration and praxis tests. OT Practice11(17), 20-22.

Dellapiazza, F. (2018). Links between sensory processing, adaptive behaviours, and attention in children with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review. Psychiatry Research, Psychiatry Research.

Eddy, C. M., & Cook, J. L. (2018). Emotions in action: The relationship between motor function and social cognition across multiple clinical populations. Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, 86, 229-244.

Ekenny, L., Ehill, E., & Ehamilton, A (2016). The relationship between social and motor cognition in primary school age-children. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 228.

Koenig, K. P., & Rudney, S. G. (2010). Performance challenges for children and adolescents with difficulty processing and integrating sensory information: A systematic review. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64, 430– 442. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2010.09073


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