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Friday, September 30, 2016

Part Four: Tips for Parents and Teachers Working with Children with Sensory Processing Disorders or Children on the Autism Spectrum by Guest Blogger Elise Siak

Tricks and Tips for Parents and Teachers

by Elise Siak, Occupational Therapist

Again because sensory processing disorder is complex and the challenges associated with it are unique to the individual, it is difficult to provide strategies which can help any and all children with sensory processing disorder. There are, however, some strategies that tend to work well for most children with sensory processing disorder and sensory processing challenges. See last week’s post for more information on the proprioceptive and vestibular systems, as these systems are very important to understand in order to fully grasp the rest of the information in this post.

Classroom-Based Sensory Strategies

The classroom environment can pose a unique set of challenges for children with a sensory processing disorder or sensory processing challenge. 

Think about the variety of situations during a typical school day which involve a notable lack of enriching sensory input like sitting at a desk for long periods of time, riding the bus, standing in line, and fire drills. 

Boredom in School

Lack of Sensory Input During School

Then think about the variety of situations during a typical school day which involve an overload of stimulation over which children have no control like the ringing of the school bell, loud and crowded hallways, or the glare of overhead lights.

Too Much Noise   
    Noise Overload                  Sensory overload from crowded Hallway

Because some children with sensory processing disorder can be sensitive to too much of any one type of sensory input or require increased amounts of any one type of sensory input, pinpointing specific strategies to help with classroom challenges is tough. However, as a rule of thumb, you should keep in mind that whether a child wants more or less input, they will find a way to either limit or get more input.

Children who want more input will find a way to get that input one way or another--jumping, spinning, and running, wriggling in their chairs to the point of being disruptive, or even pushing other children when standing in line.

Distrupting the Classroom

Children who need to limit sensory input  may attempt to run away at the sound of the school bell, cover their ears, yell, or other similar behaviors in order to avoid the overload of stimulation.

Finding an effective way to channel a child’s natural sensory needs into more constructive means is the best way to have a happy child and a better functioning classroom!

Some strategies that can be used include a variety of ways to provide proprioceptive input, as well as other types of input, and include the following:

  • Weighted lap pad
  • Wiggle cushion or therapy ball chair
  •  Use of a resistance band tied around the front legs of a classroom chair so that the child can kick it back and forth with their legs while seated

Theraband in Classroom

Stretchy Hulk Sensory Toy

Stretchy Hulk Sensory Toy

Squishy Tactile Nemo Toy

Nemo Squishy Tactile Toy

  •  Calm-down bottles with glitter and food coloring for use in a calm down corner or before nap time  

    Calm Down Bottle

  • A piece of the rough side of Velcro that can be placed under the desk and rubbed when extra sensory input is needed
Velcro on desk at school

  • Chewy tubes/fidgets which attach to the end of a pencil
  • Water bottle which requires forceful sucking or has a bite valve (like a camelback water bottle)
  •  Regular breaks in seated work including chair push-ups, wall push-ups, jumping jacks, toe touches, etc. (This type of break would be beneficial for all students!)

Wall Push Up

Chair Push Up

Home-Based Sensory Strategies

Because home is naturally a less structured environment than school, the possibilities are nearly endless for ways to work sensory input into a child’s experiences! See the previous post for some specific strategies related to the proprioceptive and vestibular systems. Some fun ideas for novel sensory experiences at home include:

Quiet Tent

Quiet Corner

  • Tactile sensory play which can include sand and water play, finger painting, playing with cornstarch and water mixed together (side note: if you’ve never tried this, you must! It is so much fun!), playing with silly putty or play dough

Sand and Water Play

Sand and Water Table

  • Making a stress ball/fidget toy out of two balloons and flour- place one balloon inside of the other, fill the inner balloon with flour, tie off both balloons, and voila!
  •  Making a calm-down bottle with an empty water bottle, clear soap, food coloring, and glitter
  • Straw games, including blowing a pompom with a straw either straight ahead or through a maze made of blocks
  • Use of a weighted blanket, weighted vest, or compression clothing--please consult with an occupational therapist or other healthcare professional with knowledge of sensory processing before beginning any sort of weighted material use with your child
  • Scooter board games, including using hands only to move it forward while lying on the stomach
  • Pop-up tunnels and/or fabric tunnels--for increased proprioceptive input
Monkey Tunnel

  •  Body sock (similar to a fabric tunnel, but smaller and closed off on one side) provides proprioceptive input across the majority of the body
  • Climbing activities, including climbing a rock wall, playground equipment, stairs etc.
Climbing Wall at Home

Again, while each child with sensory processing disorder is unique in their specific challenges, hopefully these strategies will help to provide a starting point for better understanding your child (or student) and helping them to be more confident, focused, and happy in their day-to-day lives! If you suspect that your child has sensory processing disorder or sensory processing challenges, you should consult with your child’s pediatrician and an occupational therapist in order to most effectively help in understanding and assisting your child to live up to their full potential!

Guest Blogger Elise Siak:

I have always been interested in working in pediatrics, even before discovering occupational therapy. Since discovering OT, I have thrived on the creativity and connections with clients with which this profession provides me. I have passion for working with children with sensory processing and self-regulation challenges. I have experience working with both children and adults on the autism spectrum, as well as children with a variety of developmental challenges and delays. I hope to be able to provide both parents and other therapists alike with some insight into sensory processing disorders!

This Concludes our Series on Sensory Processing Disorders.  Hopefully this information has been helpful.  We welcome your comments and suggestions!

Blog Administrator:  Trisha Roberts

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