5 Ways to Support Students with Sensory Processing Disorders
Children with sensory processing disorders need additional support from educators and parents. With both hypersensitivity (amplified senses) and hyposensitivity (reduced senses), it’s a balancing act.
Identifying the sensitivities of your students is part of the challenge. We hope this guide, including 5 ways to support students with sensory processing disorders, will provide some helpful information.
Children whose sensory processing manifests as extreme sensitivity to sound, touch, taste and smell can have epic reactions to sensory experiences which don’t faze other children. Knowing the signs of hypersensitivity is where you start:
- Hypersensitive children may be overwhelmed by clothing, especially by labels and seams. For this reason, they’ll sometimes wear their clothes inside out, or favor certain items of clothing which offer them relief.
- Everyday sounds and sights can set hypersensitive children off as these can “hurt”. A loud car engine or a lamp they perceive as “too bright” can overwhelm them.
- Certain scents can also trigger hypersensitivity. This can result in an aversion to foods associated with the triggering scents.
- Touching hypersensitive children can also be problematic, as well as the noise generated by others (especially other children playing). That’s why these children often prefer solitary activities.
These are the children who can’t seem to get enough stimulation, which can put them at risk. Look for the following:
- Hyposensitive children can feel thwarted in their quest for stimulation, resulting in frustration. This may cause them to self-stimulate by biting or scratching themselves to reach the level of stimulation they desire.
- Children with this type of sensory processing challenge may have problems managing distance between themselves and others, as well as force. This manifests as banging into others, slamming doors shut instead of closing them normally and being extremely fidgety.
- Hyposensitivity and the sensation-seeking associated with it may also lead children with this type of SPD to eat too quickly, putting them at risk of choking.
What educators can do
There are challenges for both polarities of SPD in the classroom, for obvious reasons. The presence of other children, the requirement for attention and quiet, the bell ringing – all these can present problems for children with SPD.
The following can help you support children with this challenge in the classroom:
- Paying attention to the behavior of children with SPD will help you identify what triggers them. What do they do when it’s quiet? Do they self-harm? Offer something to distract them and to stimulate them which will prevent the self-harming behavior.
- Have a tool kit at the ready to deal with both types of SPD. Items like weighted blankets, noise-cancelling headphones and toys which are either weighted or vibrating can provide stimulation.
- You’re the teacher, so keep your cool. Children having “moments” should be addressed at their level. Ask them what’s going on, then offer to help.
- Your words, as an educator have power. Once you have their attention (address them by name, directly), they’ll listen and slow down.
- Maintain contact with therapists working with SPD children in your classroom. You can support each other with knowledge of the child’s triggers and behaviors. Family members can also help you maintain consistency that provides stability for children with SPD.
You’re a therapist, too
As an educator, you have a unique role in the life of children who struggle with sensory processing disorder.
Classroom settings can be difficult for kids with SPD. You’ll find your role is clarified when you work with families and therapists to construct plans for these children. SPD can manifest in different ways and working with those who know your students is the way forward. Building partnerships with these figures in SPD children’s lives offers you pivotal knowledge to improve the quality of their learning experiences.
Fun Factory Sensory Gym
Fun Factor Sensory Gym is the only company of its kind which is both and insured and bonded to provide sensory environments for children with SPD.
We design your environment, then we deliver and install it, bringing the smiles that mean better outcomes for kids with SPD. Contact us.