It’s always nerve wrecking for a parent to send their child off to school for the first time. But it’s even more nerve wrecking for the parent of a child who has had a rough time in school in the past when a new school year starts.
Sensory seekers can have a tough time navigating through the school day. Excitement for a fresh start, anxiety over how the school day and school year will be handled, and nervousness for the child to have a good day – so many emotions all at once! Sometimes you just have to emotionally brace yourself for what is to come and just hold on for the ride. Sometimes doing your best is all you have to offer.
If you have a sensory seeking child they can be exceptionally fidgety in the classroom – as can kids who have attention deficit disorder. With the right tools and consistency these kids can be your biggest asset! If you are the parent of a child partnering up with your child’s teacher is the best tool you have to helping your child through the day!
Parents are their child’s biggest advocate – whether it’s in working with the school to meet the child’s needs, or getting a 504 and IEP plan settled. For teachers the more you can get the kids to move around will help (brain gym is great)!
I understand that good long recess options are not always available and sometimes teachers have to get creative. Here are some ideas on helping sensory seeking children stay on task while meeting their sensory needs throughout the day in a fluid and non distracting way.
Weighted Blankets, lap pads, plush, scarves, etc. – Although weighted vests should be used under close supervision with an OT there’s no harm in using weighted lap pads and weighted reading buddies in the classroom! It’s a quiet way to provide extra sensory pressure during reading time.
Textured Fabrics and Seats – Most people know about the cool textured seats and discs to sit on but I wanted something a little less distracting to blend in for my son. I literally velcroed various textures of fabric and materials to the underside of his desk. It’s not distracting, his friends can’t see it, and during test time and class he can rub his fingers across the various textures as needed. He LOVES it! You can try something like this gel maze pad but it’s pretty expensive. Also look for a second hand taggie type baby blanket in a small square to provide extra soft textures.
Heavy Backpacks & Errands – My son has a sensory disorder so he likes to have a heavy backpack to take to school in the mornings. We literally live 2 houses away from school so I let him adjust the weight as desired but do be mindful that their backpacks aren’t TOO heavy! This is an easy way to start their day off with a little extra sensory weight! If there is an understanding teacher in the classroom they can reserve the “heavy” errands during school like delivering books or moving large crates for the student in need of extra sensory input.
Fidget Toys – Fidget toys are wonderful – and horrible all at the same time! It just depends on the child and what type of fidget toy that is used. Some fidgets can bring far more distraction to the student as well as other classmates if they are constantly banged around on the desk, thrown, pulled out of pockets, etc. Boinks as well as paper clips linked together provide perfect fidget “toys” that can be kept in pockets quietly. Small stress toys are also beneficial for providing sensory input. Don’t forget to buy a yoga band or stretchy band to place at the bottom of the child’s chair or desk – they are wonderful!
Compression Shirts/Shorts – One thing that really helped my son was buying a few Champion (or other brand) compression shirts or shorts to wear under his clothes – like the athletic spandex ones! I think our shirts cost about $10 each so they are very reasonable. They even make compression socks! It all just hugs your kids a little tighter than a loose fitting shirt and can sometimes really make a big difference!
Allow for Sensory Overload – Parents & teachers need to partner together to come up with a classroom appropriate solution if the child is in meltdown mode from sensory overload – for everyones sake. Whether it’s a quiet corner with a book, a bean bag at the back of the classroom, or whatever it looks like for that room. Maybe it’s a trip to the bathroom or other short errand to get out of the room for a few minutes.
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