Lily Wolf Words Website asks what caregivers' main concerns are with their 'sensational' kid in school. The response getting the most votes so far is, "My kid needs to be constantly on the go." This would be a concern in that when our kids aren't given enough consistent (or enough) sensory input, their little bodies try finding other ways to get it through boucing, fidgeting, bumping, tapping, etc. These things can be not only distracting to the teacher or fellow students but for the 'sensational' kid himself.
Now, every child's sensory input needs are different because the form of SPD they have is different. That means what 'works' for one child may not be what works for another. A perfect example is with my own 'sensational' kiddos. Jaimie is an avoider in almost every way except that she needs A-L-O-T of weight to feel calm. And I'm talking HUGE amounts! I remember one OT session where the ladies kept adding more and more tiny weights to the weighted vest Jaimie had on and were blown away but how much they had to put on her--and still have it be safe for her size--before she said, "That's good!" and she'd walk around with her heels down. Deep, squishy massages work for Jaimie too. So, with her, if I give her a swing in the hammock swing, a bounce on her tramp for the length of time it takes her to sing one short song and a deep pressure massage, she's calm enough to start a day at school. (I also let her lay under all her stuffies and read just before we go.)
The thing with Jaimie is, though, that her sensory issues never interfered with her learning. She L-O-V-E-S to learn. So even though we had some fine/gross motor issues, some auditory needs and some vestibular and proprioception needs we needed to ensure she had taken care of at school, she did great with school work. (It helped having pencil grips, special shaped scissors, headphones, a weighted stuffy, lap cozy, textured seat cusion and regular vestibular/proprioception input every 60 to 90 minutes throughout the day. And teachers that made sure she used these things!) For Xander, however, we have bigger challenges.
Xander isn't as keen on the learning side of things as Jaimie is so with him, it's all about finding the fun in everything he does as well as taking care of his sensory issues in order to set him up for academic success! Xander is more of a 'seeker' for a lack of a better word. That means he constantly bumps into, hang off of, climbs all over, smashes into, crashes off of everything. He follows me around all day needing that touching input (eg: hugs, kisses, 'Fooberts'--raspberries on the cheeks--). And when his body need to be moving constantly, it's even more difficult to get him to sit and concentrate on a task at hand. For him, he needs A-L-O-T of movement games before school: bouncing, swinging, climbing then being wrapped up like a hot dog really tight. He also has headphones, a textured seat cushion, a foot stool and has his materials for crafts and stuff set up specifically (left to right) so he can remember the steps involved and do the best he can do!
With both kids, it helps that we live very close to our school so no matter what the weather is, we walk back and forth.
Snow? COOL! We can trudge through the deep snow getting our muscles working!
Rain? AWESOME! We can splash in puddles.
Icy? FUN! We can pretend we're skating all the way to school?
Warm, sunny? PERFECT! We can play a game like 'Follow the Leader' or play at the playground in front of the school before classes start.
Really it's all about knowing exactly what your child's sensory needs are then finding the most fun, positive way to give it to her. As they change, their needs will too. You'll find they may need less in one area and more in another or not even need something at all! It also helps to have a school and teachers willing to work with you on ensuring your child has the tools he needs to get him through his busy school day. (But that's an entirely different post!)
This is what our OT told us:
(a) Make sure your child gets enough of his sensory input before heading off to school;
(b) Find a way to get some extra input on the way. If you drive to school, have a 'sensory tool box' in the car filled with fidgets and other fun stuff. If you walk, try some of the things I mentioned earlier;
(c) If your child has some anxiety with class changes because of all the noise/activity, see if he'll wear headphones or if the school will let her go in a bit earlier or a few minutes later to avoid the crowds. And see if she can stay a few minutes later after the crowds clear out after school (we had to do this with Jaimie last year.);
(d) Have your OT write up a 'School Accomodations' list offering suggestions to make sure your child gets his sensory needs met throughout the day. Sometimes all it takes is giving her some 'heavy work' at school (eg: moving chairs, carrying books or tubs of stuff, etc.) to make her body feel better. If needed, see if your OT or other members of your SPD Team would be willing to come with you to meet with school staff and administrators;
(e) Make sure your child has the sensory tools he needs to hold his attention in class (eg: headphones, chewies, lap cozy, textured seat cushion, fidgets, etc. These would all be listed in the School Accomodations list). As well, see if he'll need to have lessons 'tweaked' for him to suit his individual learning style (eg: written instructions and follow-up or visual assistance rather than verbal);
(f) Make sure he gets what his body needs when he comes back home after school. Jaimie needs 'calm down time' where she lays on her special part of the couch under her stuffies and her weighted Lamby. Xander likes putting balls or running around in the basement.
These are just a few things we do around our place. We are so fortunate because our school has been so accomodating for both Jaimie and Xander's needs (plus having a Mama with a big mouth and teaching others about my kids' form of SPD helped a bit too, I guess. LOL!) Follow your therapist's suggestions, watch your child, trust your heart and follow your gut. And never be afraid to address issues that come up at school. Most times, when people have all the information, they'll be much more willing to do what they can to help.
After all, we all have the same goal: setting our children up for academic success and instilling a love for learning!