Have you ever been in a classroom as an adult? Wow, they can be chaotic, loud and overwhelming for anyone. The days of students sitting in the desks quietly working are over. Cooperative learning, alternative seating arrangements and group projects have turned the classroom environment upside down. On one hand it is a constant learning environment, all the other hand it can increase the chances of sensory overload for any student. Students need to process all the sensory information that bombards them throughout the school day – sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch and movement. Here are 7 simple tips to help students process sensory information in the classroom:
Keep consistent. Establish a structured routine throughout the school day so students know what to expect. Provide visual schedules if necessary.
Maintain the classroom furniture arranged the same way. When the classroom stays the same, this also helps students to know what to expect. Their bodies learn what they need to move around, over and in between to transition in the classroom. For alternative seating classrooms, try keeping at least the tables and carpet areas in the same position and you can move the various seats.
Keep student apprised of upcoming transitions. For example, give students a heads up of what is coming next and/or how much time is left for the current activity i.e. “We will be going to art in 5 minutes”.
Provide student with frequent movement breaks. Our bodies are not designed to sit all day. Keeping students active also helps to activate the brain. Incorporate movement with learning, assign students jobs that require physical activity, increase recess time and add in brain breaks.
Promote cooperative learning. Do group assignments so students can learn from peer role models.
Encourage a multi-sensory approach to learning. Learning styles can affect a students ability to process sensory information. Try to create lessons plans that are multi-sensory i.e. tactile, visual, auditory and kinesthetic (movement).
Provide the student with choices. Everyone has sensory preferences. If someone has a very strong sensory preference, it can possibly interfere with his/her ability to learn. If possible, allow the students to make their own choices i.e. fingerpaint or paintbrushes, stand up or sit down, pencil or pen, etc.
What suggestions or tips have you found to help students process sensory information at school?
This book offers many suggestions for therapeutic interventions for 12 different problem behavior categories.
The classroom sensory based problem behaviors include the following:
- Sitting/Poor Work Tolerance
- Vision/Attention Related
- Oral/Facial Related
- Visual Sensitivities
- Tactile/Proprioceptive/Personal Space Issues
- Self-Injurious Behaviors
- Gut Reactions Due to Perceived Stress/Anxiety
- Difficulty Staying with the Group
- Delayed Immature/Inefficient Grasp Pattern
- Visual/Proprioceptive Sensory Seeking Wrist/ Hands
- Difficulty with Positioning/ Lower Extremity Awareness
- Oral Motor/ Self-Feeding Issues
Under each problem behavior category the book lists:
- what the child may be displaying
- possible underlying causes
- sensory strategy solutions
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