Sensory Integration in the Classroom
3 Ways to Introduce Sensory Integration Activities in the Classroom
Brenna Leah Cashman (BHSc) is a member of the International Organization of Nutritional Consultants and a professional counselor, registered holistic nutritionist and herbalist with over 10 years of experience working with families. She writes about family health and nutrition.
1. Fidget, Wiggle and Jump: How to Encourage Better Classroom Skills
The classroom can often be a challenging environment for a child with sensory integration dysfunction. Teachers can improve these students’ comfort and behavior through the use of sensory integration activities. The activities are aimed at improving a child’s ability to concentrate, remain calm and stay still. Many children have difficulty staying still all day even when they don’t have any sensory deficits. Problems with sensory integration can make sitting still even more challenging.
Teachers can implement several strategies to address this issue. An inflated seat cushion is often helpful in providing a little movement without having the child move around too much. The natural bounce that these cushions provide gives your child the feeling of movement and enables him to sit still for longer stretches.
Most children also enjoy the opportunity to get out of their seat and go on classroom errands or hand out worksheets to the other students. Teachers can really help these students by finding appropriate tasks that involve movement and activity throughout the school day. It is also great when all the students can be given time to stretch, do jumping jacks or just move around a little between lessons.
For children who fidget a lot, special fidget toys can be helpful. Hand exercisers, stress balls and other non-distracting hand-held items can contain the fidgeting and prevent it from getting out of control. Stores that carry teaching supplies frequently carry a selection of fidget toys that are appropriate for use in the classroom.
2. Schoolwork and Sensory Integration
Teachers can further help their students by recognizing their special needs and modifying their programs accordingly. Does your child have difficulty following instructions? Perhaps the teacher can provide both oral and written instructions. Pictorial instructions might also help. Having the child repeat the directions is a good way of making sure that the instructions were heard and understood.
Your child might also lack organizational skills and have difficulty remembering homework and assignments. Teachers can help by packing the child’s schoolbag or providing a second set of textbooks to keep at home.
For children who do poorly on tests or written assignments, some other modifications might be required. Some children benefit from being given extra time. Others may do better when they take tests in a quiet room away from distractions or are given the opportunity to dictate their answers or use a computer to type written work.
3. Improving Student Participation
Children with sensory integration deficits are often challenging students. It may seem that they act up a lot or don’t participate well. These students generally do better when they have few distractions and more opportunities for physical activity. Activities that involve role playing, building models, lab work and field trips are usually more successful. This may not always be practical, but whenever possible, these types of activities will be beneficial.
You can also help by limiting distractions in the classroom. Finding a seat away from windows, doors, direct sunlight and other distractions is important. Your child will probably do best near the teacher where there is less visual stimulation and the teacher can keep a closer eye on his progress.
Teachers can also increase classroom success by using well-designed visuals such as maps, charts and pictures. Children process information better when it is well organized and clearly displayed. Using different colors to organize information is good. Overheads, pictorial worksheets and use of the blackboard can help improve your child’s comprehension.