Does sensory processing affect behaviors in the classroom?
As a former teacher and play therapist, I have seen Sensory Processing first hand. It is hard when you are the teacher of a classroom full of students and you don’t know how to help all of them. Today, I want to offer advice.
What does sensory processing look like in the classroom?
As a teacher or educator, have you noticed any of the following concerns in the classroom?
- fidgety and often disrupts the class.
- clumsy and bumps into other children.
- struggles with holding a pencil correctly and struggles with handwriting.
- does not transition well from one activity to another
- meltdowns during gatherings (like a program in the auditorium or gym).
- difficulty in doing self-care tasks independently for their age
- not able to take care of personal belongings (easily loses or breaks items) for their age
- become easily tired throughout the school day for their age
- not able to organize and sequence information appropriately for their age
- not able to read social or environmental cues for their age
- easily distractible for their age
- avoids or is fearful of particular activities such as messy play, movement, playground equipment, the lunchroom, certain sounds, smells, or tastes
- difficulty with transitions
- difficulty with social interactions
- has behavior issues such as tantrums or meltdown to no apparent reason
You can probably think of a child’s name or see their face when you read through a few of those. Managing a classroom full of eager students is challenging enough. But when you have to think about these behaviors too it can seem overwhelming.
Many times children are struggling with these challenges because of sensory processing.
We all deal with sensory input in different ways. As adults, we have learned to adapt and cope with many of our sensory quirks or differences.
Children are still trying to figure out the world around them. And when their sensory system is giving them wrong or different information, it can make a classroom full of 25+ other kids a challenge. They have to filter out the noise to try and hear you speaking to the class. And noises that distract them may not even be something you notice: the sound of a fan, the hum of the lights, someone walking in the hallway outside the classroom. Not to mention visual distractions, or maybe they just can’t figure out how to move their body to navigate the school environment.
As a teacher, you are looking for easy solutions and don’t want to spend money on expensive tools or strategies. Budgets are tight, space is limited, and time to implement is even smaller.
What if you could find one place where you could get the tips, tools, and strategies you needed to support your student who struggles, or any student, with sensory processing? And help to educate other teachers, staff, and parents you come into contact with?
These reasons and more are why my friends Heather, an Occupational Therapy Assistant with school-based experience, and Sharla, a mom of 7 with real-life experience with special needs and sensory processing disorder have put together something amazing. The Sensory Essentials Collection is a treasure trove of sensory processing resources designed with parents and teachers in mind (check it out here).
In the meantime, here are some tips that can help with those everyday battles.
Tips to help with sensory processing in the classroom:
- Use a visual schedule. Have a schedule on the board and stick to the same schedule daily, if possible.
- Give warnings for upcoming transitions and allow for extra time so that your child can adjust, even simple things such as switching out the math book for a history book.
- Offer sensory breaks throughout the day. Centers with sand play or coloring are great examples. Stomping and stretching are another.
- Engage the class in calming breathing techniques in the morning and afternoon.
- Make sure that the seat/desk/chair is a good fit. If the child’s feet do not reach the floor, allow for a stool to be brought in to allow this to happen.
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