Interventions to Help Students Maintain Personal Space

The personal space and body awareness survey results are complete.  Two hundred sixty pediatric therapists, teachers and parents weighed in on the best modifications and interventions to help students maintain personal space.  Each participant in the online survey answered the two questions: 1.)  Job title or role? and 2.) When a child has difficulty with personal space, what modification/intervention do you find to be the most successful? (listed in alphabetical order) –

Alternative seating
Body awareness exercises and activities
Movement breaks throughout the day
Physical cues ie holding hula hoop, adaptive seating, etc.
Proprioceptive input and activities
Sensory diet
Social stories
Video modeling
Visual cues ie picture symbols, circles, etc.

The 260 participants who completed the survey reported that when a child has difficulty with personal space, the following modifications/interventions are the most successful:

  • 25% indicated body awareness exercises and activities.
  • 20.4% indicated physical cues ie holding hula hoop, adaptive seating, etc.
  • 18.8% indicated proprioceptive input and activities.
  • 11.9% indicated visual cues ie picture symbols, circles, etc.
  • 7.7% indicated movement breaks throughout the day.
  • 5.8% indicated social stories.
  • 5.4% indicated alternative seating.
  • 1.9% indicated sensory diet.
  • 1.9% indicated other.
  • 1.2% indicated video modeling

Overall, the 260 pediatric therapists, teachers and parents reported that body awareness exercises and activities were the most successful interventions to help children who have difficulty with personal space.


Please take a moment to answer our current survey.  Thank you in advance.

Here are the comments that were posted:

Movement breaks that typically include proprioceptive input. If it is not a true sensory processing issue, social stories are most helpful and practice or reminders.

I think a combination of many of these works best.

I usually begin with a presentation to the entire classroom using a hula hoop to illustrate the concept of what “personal space” looks like in our culture. And then have each of the children step inside while a partner is outside the hoop to give them a concrete example of what it looks/feels like to give someone else their “space”. I’ll ask the student who may have difficulties be one of the first to step inside the hoop and then have him pick a peer to be on the outside, and continue with the whole group until everyone has had a chance to be on the inside and outside. I’ll often leave the hula hoop in the classroom for the students to play with and experiment with for a week before retrieving. It allows the teacher to use it to demonstrate further in the week as necessary.

Short term, visual cues such as arm’s length or tape on the floor. Longer term body and environment awareness issues need to be addressed.

all of the above

This depends on the child; as more than one approach is often needed

We are new to this and just getting started. Our OT is Awesome and has helped so much. Thank you to all the warriors fighting for our kids.

If you are looking for personal space and body awareness activities check out Personal Space Journey.

Personal Space Journey

Personal Space Journey is a digital collection of activities to teach children about personal space. You can choose how to utilize the materials. Some children may benefit from reading the story first with follow up. Others may need to work on body awareness activities in order to maintain personal space.

This collection includes the following: 
  1. Personal Space Journey Board Game
  2. 24 Body Cards – the child has to make his/her body look exactly like the body on the card
  3. 24 Challenge Cards – complete the body awareness and motor planning challenges written on each card
  4. 16 Movement Cards – complete the movement cards to practice body awareness moving through space
  5. Body in Motion Challenges Worksheet – try to complete the 16 motor skills moving your body in different ways
  6. Self Portrait – practice drawing a self portrait and remember to include many body parts
  7. Color the Body – identify and color in various body parts
  8. Personal Space Journey Letter for Home – letter written to parents about developing body awareness
  9. Personal Space and School – a 12 page social story about maintaining personal space in school
  10. “I Can” Statement Posters to compliment the Personal Space social story – 12 “I Can” posters to hang throughout the school to reinforce the personal space journey
  11. Twelve Small cards of the “I Can” Statements – provide the child with these small cards to remind them to maintain personal space in different situations – i.e. tape to a desk, slip in a notebook, etc.
  12. Personal Space Journey Certificate – complete this certificate when child has mastered maintaining personal space
  13. Handwriting Practice – 8 pages of handwriting practice for the child to list ways to maintain personal space in different situations. Provided in dotted line format, double line format (Handwriting without Tears® style) and regular lined paper.