Does your student cover their ears in response to loud noises or pull at clothing that may feel itchy or have a tag in the back? If so, your student may have sensory processing challenges. What is sensory processing and how does it affect some students (and yes, adults)? Sensory processing is the way our nervous system receives and interprets sensory information from the environment, and how we respond to it. When a child has sensory processing challenges, they may be hypersensitive (over-responsive) or hyposensitive (under-responsive) to certain sensory input and need more intense sensory input (like a weighted blanket or rough textures to rub or feel). For example, a person may be hypersensitive to loud noises like a fire alarm or siren or they may have tactile input challenges and avoid specific textures such as tags in their clothing.
Here are some strategies that can help students with sensory processing challenges be more successful at home and at school:
- Provide a sensory-friendly environment: Create an environment that is comfortable and calming for the student. This can include providing a quiet space, using soft lighting (such as light covers), and alternative seating (like a wobble cushion) that is away from the main group of students but is still in sight of the teacher.
- Provide sensory breaks: Provide the student with opportunities to take breaks and engage in activities that meet their sensory needs such as going to the calming corner, fidgets, or sensory balls.
- Use visual supports: Use visual supports to help the child understand expectations and transitions. This can include visual schedules, checklists, and social stories.
- Reduce sensory "triggers": Some common triggers are tags in clothing, bright lights (especially overhead fluorescent lights), and strong smells (i.e. room plug-ins).
It's important to note that every student/person is unique, and the strategies that work for one student may not work for another. It's important to work with the student and their family to develop a personalized plan that meets their specific needs and preferences.
Do you have any favorite tips to address sensory needs in your classroom? If so, please drop them in the comments section!
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