EASE THE TRANSITION
Many children function best with predictability and familiarity. Therefore it is helpful to establish regular routines like eating meals at the same time each day, and going to bed and waking up at the same time.
If your child is sensitive to clothing, don’t feel you need to send her to school in a brand-new outfit. It’s perfectly fine to start school in well-worn, proven-comfy but neat dress or pants and shirt. Cut out clothing labels and tags, and snip off any stray threads. Wash any new clothes several times to get rid of sizing and chemicals using a perfume-free, dye-free detergent.Clothing companies like Teres Kids specialize in sensory-friendly clothing for supersensitive kids. Hanna Andersson has great underpants for boys and girls that stay in place, without elastic waistbands, and that hold up in the was
EDUCATE THE SCHOOL
Research shows that sensory issues affect 5-16 percent of the general population and up to 90 percent of people with autism spectrum disorders. With so many student affected, there are fortunately many teachers and school administrators who already “get” the sensory piece. They understand that a child may need a hand fidget to self-regulate and attend at circle time, do 20 jumping jacks or climb a few flights of stairs before sitting down to work on handwriting, or wear earplugs during recess and assemblies to protect themselves from unbearable noise.
Regardless of whether your child is in a regular education or special education program, many schools and individual school staff do not know about sensory processing challenges. It will help to spell out ways your child’s sensory issues interfere with his education and day-to-day functioning.
A student who has difficulty dealing with information from more than one sensory system at a time may become overwhelmed by a teacher’s demand to process input simultaneously, such as to make eye contact when speaking. This child may be seeing visual distortions or trying to be distracted by another person’s eyes blinking or eyebrows moving instead of hearing what is said. This child must be allowed to break off eye contact when she is listening or speaking.
A student may do fine one-on-one with a teacher or therapist, but put him in a crowded cafeteria or in recess, and she may be feel like her body and brain are under attack. Any time a student is uncomfortable or in pain, isn’t getting enough sensory input or is getting too much, that student can’t reap the full benefit of the educational program – no matter how appropriate and well designed it may be. A hypersensitive student may be totally distracted from lessons because she is anxious about the fire alarm because it feels like an earsplitting explosion or by a fluorescent light that hurts her eyes. A student may not be getting enough sensory input to stay tuned in to a lesson and instead become self-absorbed.
While you may be quite used to dealing with your child’s sensory issues don’t assume that your child’s teacher is completely familiar with these issues. Once teachers make the connection between sensory issues and classroom behaviors, they will likely be more willing to implement sensory-based activities and accommodations.
SENSORY IDEAS AT SCHOOL
Movement opportunities. All children – especially those with sensory challenges-need opportunities to move before, during, and after school: hang from monkey bars, throw or push objects, run, jump, and pull objects. It might be something as simple as taking a brief walk at specified intervals or doing some jumping jacks or wall push-ups. Otherwise, it can be quite difficult to settle in to quiet classroom activities and meet behavioral expectations.
More progressive schools incorporate movement experiences such as Brain Gym, yoga, or other fun activities into classrooms to keep students on track and ready to learn. The best gym teachers let kids run laps around the gym to blow off pent-up energy before asking requiring them to sit down and listen to instructions for the day’s gym class.
Fidgeting with objects. Fidgets can keep a student’s hands busy so she can focus better.
Desk accommodations. A band of stretchy material around front chair legs that he can push his shins and ankles against may help. A carpet square or piece soft cloth he can touch attached to the underside of the desk or an inflatable cushion to sit on can make attending for long periods easier for every child.
Objects for chewing. Objects to chew on such as a chewy necklace, a straw or gum (if allowed) – can provide soothing oral input to keep a student focused on learning rather than sensory cravings.