In part one of this blog we looked at sensory processing and how it helps each of us respond in our day to day environments.
The following strategies are just a few considerations in the development of a sensory friendly classroom.
- Provide a period of sensory input and movement directly before a period of focus and concentration. If you have planned a 20 minute lesson, aim to provide 2-3 minutes of targeted sensory input before it starts.
- Finish regulating activities with a deep breath to help the children to focus
- Tipping the head upside down (touch toes, heads, shoulder, knees and toes game) is a very powerful dose of vestibular input and is a quick way to assist children to regulate their level of alertness.
- Incorporate movement throughout the day as much as possible – during lessons and during transitions. Remember movement can occur while children are sitting – chair push-ups, giving yourself a hug or doing a monkey grip provide lots in information through muscles and joints to assist with self-regulation.
- Provide alternative options to sitting in a chair including laying on the floor propped on elbows, standing to work, and sitting on a gym ball or wobble stool, sitting in a beanbag with a clipboard.
- Do not remove play and ask children to sit still during their lunch break. This will only set them up for failure in the upcoming lessons as their sensory systems have not had a chance to reset. If removal of play is a consequence for behaviours, ask the child to do an active job such as stacking books in the library or picking up rubbish. This movement will assist them to self-regulate and return to class more ready to learn.
- Consider the visual input in the classroom in terms of lighting, colours, amount and positioning of artwork and posters displayed in the room
- Consider the sounds in the classroom particularly your use of voice and its role in self-regulation. A very quiet voice is much more effective to assist children to regulate their nervous systems, than a loud voice.
- Incorporate both auditory and movement input when teaching new skills or expecting children to concentrate and focus. Children often respond very well to learning things through song.
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’d like to:
- organise a staff inservice
- plan a program that is contextualised to the needs of the children in your class
- refer a child with sensory processing difficulties to an OT
- share ideas and tips about sensory friendly classrooms.
Written by Madeline Avci. Mum of 3 active boys. Occupational Therapist. Owner of Jump Up for Kids (including Jump Up Outdoors). Madeline is passionate about making the outdoors part of everyone’s day and supporting families to navigate the challenges of our modern world.