Cool Sensory Tools for School
Cool Sensory Tools For School
Caregivers who have “sensational” kids struggle with many things. One of the most difficult areas they struggle with is ensuring all the support, tools and strategies are in place to help get their child through the school year. We have been so fortunate in Jaimie and Xander’s cases because, despite a rocky start, each of their schools and teachers have been right on board not only with learning about SPD, but also how it affects each of our kids and what exactly each of them needs to thrive.
In terms of my kids in school, what I’ve found that has worked for them is a strong combination of three things: (a) Understanding what works for each child here at home and then trying to see how those strategies can be worked into the school environment; (b) teachers willing to understand what works at home then being willing to incorporate those things into the classroom routine; and (c) including the expert perspective of our OT. The final point is an important one for those caregivers trying to get their child’s school on board. Oftentimes, simply having that expert point of view on your side can be all it takes to have school administrators and teachers say, “Oh, okay. This is a serious thing we should pay more attention to.”
The first school tool I found most helpful was a document called a School Accommodation Sheet. This is similar to a big checklist that your OT prepares outlining exactly what your child needs in terms of sensory input. Usually the therapist will also offer specific exercises or tool suggestions and ways teachers can incorporate the suggestions into their regular routine in the least disruptive way. I found this an ingenious tool because it backed up all the things I tried talking to the school and teachers about, but this gave a much more detailed outline. Jaimie’s teacher kept a copy of it pinned on the wall beside her desk to refer to. Her Grade Two teacher (who has a child with SPD of her own) got all the kids participating in the sensory exercises so Jaimie wasn’t isolated. Brilliant!
With your School Accommodations sheet coupled with your knowledge of what works at home, you’re well on your way to setting your ‘sensational’ kid up for academic success! All you need after that is to gather together the tools and fidgets he responds to the best. These are what we call, ‘Jaimie and Xander’s Cool School Tools’, which they—and all of their classmates—consider just another school supply each of them needs.
Just like with what works at home, you want things that calm her, help her focus her attention where it should be, enable her to tune out unnecessary distractions, assist her to sit still, help her hold her writing utensil properly, and help her to do a task with many steps as best as she can. It’s a great idea to have a variety of tools you switch between to match needs and self-regulation abilities as well as what’s going on with your child throughout the day. For example, Jaimie has greater self-regulation skills than Xander does but her anxiety is much higher, and lasts a lot longer than Xander’s.
Both Jaimie and Xander need regular vestibular and proprioception input throughout each of their day (every 60 to 90 minutes). They both get three recesses a day plus gym time, but sometimes they don’t always get the specific input they each need even with all of that. And as you all know, when their bodies aren’t regulated, it can be difficult to concentrate on homework, sit still or have patience with all the little things that pop up during the day.
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