Can you think of a child in your classroom that can’t sit still at circle time? Or likes to climb on everything? The one who doesn’t like to sit at a table and would rather stand while eating or doing table work?
It’s often children like these who are struggling with sensory processing issues, and while it can be incredibly frustrating (trust us, we get it!), it’s important to know what it is, what it looks like, and what you can start doing right now to help save your time, meet the unique challenges of these students, and save a little of your sanity!
About Sensory Processing Disorder
Children with sensory processing challenges have a difficult time organizing the information they get from their senses. Children who struggle with sensory issues often experience:
- Difficulty transitioning or changing their routine
- Extreme or under-reactive responses to pain
- Lack of social skills and fine motor skills
- Unexpected reactions when they have certain sensory input
- Trouble balancing
A majority of these issues can cause these children to have meltdowns due to their sensory input either being too much, not enough, or a kind they don’t really like.
You may already have a few children in mind, and one way you can determine if they have sensory processing disorder is by observation — lots and lots of it, at different times, in different places, with different people.
Once you have observed these situations you may see a pattern which can help show you what type of sensory processing pattern they have. This can guide you into what the child might need to succeed in your classroom and not have their sensory processing challenges interfering with their activities throughout the day.
It’s important to understand that sensory processing disorder is not an actual diagnosis — yet!
It’s typically presented as a symptom under the umbrella of a different diagnosis like Autism, ADHD, OCD and other developmental delays. As a teacher, when you see a child struggling, you can help identify and intervene, which will give them a far better outcome as they move through their academic career, and later, life.
How You Can Help Children in Your Classroom (and Yourself!)
If you want to help you children find ways to succeed in your classroom (while keeping your sanity), then we strongly encourage you to follow this method:
- Verbally instruct them.
- Visually demonstrate what you’d like from them.
- Physically model what you need for them to do.
You have all sorts of little learners in your class, and doing this can work for every activity so every child has the opportunity to understand what you need from them. This is especially important because we have a better chance of information being retained in our long-term memory if we receive the information in two of our sensory pathways!
For children with sensory processing differences, their challenges can be overcome with an adaptive environment. So take the time to learn about these children, try different things, and figure out what works for them. It can be a lot of work upfront, but worth it in the end.
As you apply these new strategies in your classroom, be patient with your students and yourself. Progress over perfection should always be the goal, and any progress is good news.
Want to Learn More About Sensory Processing Issues?
As you move through your days, keep in mind that every child has a different need, whether it has to do with sensory processing or not, and they each deserve to have all the tools needed for their personal success in a classroom. You’re doing hard work, but you’re also making a difference, one that you may not notice for years to come!
At Impact Early Education, we know your work is never done. That’s why we provide valuable professional development courses for preschool teachers, directors, and owners in a way that works for you. To learn more, explore our courses or contact us today!