Teacher Tips for Making School a Sensational Place
“All children have the ability to learn. We simply need to discover what works for them…what turns that light on…then bring it out so they can see themselves shine.” ~ Mrs. P
One of the most important things in helping children with SPD in school: the child. All any of us wants—parents, teachers and assistants—for these children is for them to thrive right along side their peers. This is a reality as long as we give them the necessary tools they need to excel. But in order to do this, teachers need to be taught about SPD and how to help these children in the classrooms; researchers need to further their work in order to provide the data to educators; therapists need to use that data and speak up for children and families struggling with SPD; and we parents need to continue to advocate for our children.
One day I want to see my daughter in her classroom mingling with other children with no fear. It will happen because parents care enough to educate others in how to interact with their children and teachers want to learn how to help. Knowledge spawns understanding and that is the most powerful tool we can teach people to help children like Jaimie with SPD.
Tips For Teachers
Before Jaimie started Kindergarten, she put in two years of preschool. Similarly as what happened in the beginning of Kindergarten, her teachers either forced her to follow the crowd or allowed her to sit back and do only what made her most comfortable. Neither of these are the best approaches because if Jaimie is given too much too fast, she breaks down. Alternatively, if she’s left to do only what she likes best she’ll never learn to try new things or to function in our ever-changing world without fear.
Here are a few suggestions for teachers to help SPD children in their classrooms:
(1) For children who find sitting still for lessons difficult: Give the child additional ways to move by giving them jobs like passing out materials or sending messages to the office; do some in-class “wigglytime” activities like songs with movement, walking around the classroom or hallway; allow textured seat cushions or yoga balls to sit on (but not for all-day as it can interfere with posture.)
(2) For students with difficulties paying attention: Seat students in areas with the least visual distractions (eg: near the front, away from windows, away from where students would group, etc.); give them a tactile item to squeeze—such as frustration ball or foamy; have them do jobs that require them to push, pull or lift heavy objects (this helps “organize” some children enough to focus on work); recess is important for these children and often not long enough. See if there are other short outside or gym activities they can do to release some extra energy.
(3) For students with problems learning the motor skills for writing and other activities: Create clear but short instructions; praise each baby step; use movement to help explain the tasks; using activities that offer additional feedback (writing in/cutting through clay, light wrist weights while writing); give them extra time to practice and learn; send fun time activities using the skill home for parents to do with them.
(4) For students with sound, texture, odor, light and other sensitivities: Talk about such things with the entire class how “Some people are more sensitive to certain sensations than others and may feel irritated.” (Jaimie’s teacher did this as a way to show respect for everyone without singling out Jaimie.); help the child learn where the irritating stimulus may be coming from so they know what it is next time; prepare the child in advance for certain activities that may be too sensory stimulating for him or her; help the child learn strategies during certain tasks or activities (eg: using words to say something doesn’t feel right, standing an arm’s length away from other children to avoid uncomfortable feelings, etc.); remembering that firm touch is usually better for children with sensory sensitivities than a light touch.
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