For children with a sensory processing disorder or sensory issues, a classroom can provide a great deal of stimulation, not all of which are positive. Due to the sheer amount of activity going on in a classroom for young children, there is a lot of information to process, including visual cues, noises, smells, textures, movements, and more. For any child, all of this sensory information can be overwhelming, and this is particularly true for children with sensory issues or with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Children with sensory issues can be triggered by many different stimuli and each child is sensitive to different things. If a teacher is aware of the sensory issues of their students, they can alter their classroom environment accordingly to help that child succeed in school.
Below is a list of common sensory triggers that affect a range of senses.
- Fluorescent lights that are too bright or create a glare
- Windows that allow too much natural light
- Clocks that make sound as the hands move
- The texture of their chair (or how it feels)
- The activity of sitting on the carpet during circle time (or the texture of the carpet)
- The lunch of another student (the smell)
- The sound of the bell to end class or the school day
- How clay or other craft materials feel
- Having to sit still at their desk
- Having to use a pencil to write (may try to bite or lick the pencil)
As you might imagine, there are many other potential triggers in a classroom for children who experience sensory issues. One way that a teacher might help their students with sensory issues is by creating a sensory room where children can go to decompress and self-regulate.
Hypersensitive vs. Hyposensitive
Many children experience hypersensitivity to stimuli, meaning they are highly sensitive (e.g. a child who is triggered by too much flourescent light in the classroom). However, children might also experience hyposensitivity, meaning they have a very low level of sensitivity to stimuli (or do not respond to the stimuli). Children who are hyposensitive to sensory information might exhibit behavior in the classroom that shows they are seeking more sensory stimulation (e.g. biting on a pencil to receive more sensory stimulation).
If you believe your child is experiencing sensory issues, an occupational therapist may be able to assist. Occupational therapy focuses on helping children to build daily skills, and for a child with sensory issues, this might include targeting sensory integration.
Would you like to learn more about how occupational therapy can help classroom sensory triggers?
Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services for children, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.