Strategy

Sensory Supports

Sensory Diet, Sensory Integration

Sensory supports are strategies for helping students who struggle with arousal state regulation or other problems in sensory processing to get to a “just right” state for being in school, safe and learning-ready. The Theory of Sensory Integration describes how the nervous system reacts to sensation, gets information from it, integrates the information from different senses and uses it to make an appropriate response for a particular situation. Often, if there is a problem in part of this process, a student can: be over or under reactive to noise or touch, have poor attention, be irritable, be over-reactive, be lethargic or have difficulty developing skills. Some students need sheltering from sensory experiences that they perceive as excessively distressing or distracting (noise, light, touch, etc). Others need sensory experiences that help the nervous system organize itself to decrease negative reactions and allow the student to participate more fully and productively at school.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Self-Regulation Tool

Arousing Strategies Choice Cards

Set of choice boards or task cards featuring possible arousing sensory activities. Consider modifying the resource to address specific student needs or to accommodate available classroom materials.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 2 pages


Self-Regulation Tool

Arousing Strategies Poster

A sensory poster with arousing sensory activities. This resource can help students and staff choose appropriate sensory activities to help students regulate their body.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 1 pages


Self-Regulation Tool

Calming Strategies Choice Cards

Set of choice boards or task cards featuring possible calming sensory activities. Consider modifying the resource to address specific student needs or to accommodate available classroom materials.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 2 pages


Self-Regulation Tool

Sensory Calming Strategies Poster

A sensory poster with calming sensory activities. This resource can help students and staff choose appropriate sensory activities to help students regulate their body.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 1 pages


Implementation Tips

Seek OT Support
Make sure to check in with your occupational therapist who can help you develop your sensory supports, and brainstorm supports for specific students’ needs.
Individual Sensory Preferences
Remember that everyone’s nervous system is different, and therefore every student will have his or her own sensory preferences. The adults’ job is to make options available to students with sensory processing problems, and let them find the ones that work for them. Students (and staff) who do not have sensory processing problems will also benefit from sensory supports.
Transition Times
It is sometimes easy to incorporate sensory activities into transitions between activities. In Pre-K or Kindergarten, having transition songs with movement such as marching or clapping, provides a lot of stimulation. Having students carry boxes of materials to the carpet for a lesson, or to the playground or gym, provides heavy work for muscles.
Sensory Inventory
When thinking about sensory supports, you may want to create a sensory inventory of your classroom including auditory, visual and tactile-kinesthetic activities that you incorporate into your daily schedule. For example, some teachers include movement activities, such as yoga or a stretch break during transition times as a way to support sensory integration.
Additional Resources
To learn more about sensory processing, check out the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation website: [[ http://www.spdfoundation.net/about-sensory-processing-disorder.html| www.spdfoundation.net ]] or the book "The-Out of-Sync Child," by Carol Stock Kranowitz.

Examples

Sensory Breaks
Students choose from a list of activities rich in the sensations that help them get to a calm, alert state appropriate for the situation. Some students may need calming, soothing activities (e.g. firm deep pressure, gentle rocking). Others may need arousing activities (e.g. jumping, running in place, swinging). There are also activities that are generally organizing (e.g. slow sustained heavy work for muscles, sucking or chewing something). Commonly used activities include yoga, stretching, wall or chair push-ups, and jumping jacks.
Sensory Toolbox
Fill a box with a variety of objects such as fidget toys, weighted bean bags (or lap pillows), music players, massage rollers, or Theraband (wide strips of stretchy rubbery material used in physical rehab settings for strengthening exercises). Make the objects in the box available to students during classroom activities or transitions.
Calming Space (Calming Corner/Peace Place/Chill Out Place)
A quiet place in the room can be made cozy with cushions and/or being partially enclosed with a curtain or a large cardboard appliance box.The environmental stimulation of the busy classroom can be slightly reduced, while the student has a little individual space with access to soothing and organizing sensory materials (i.e. a sensory toolbox). Students can either choose on their own to go to the Peace Place, or it can be suggested by the teacher if he or she sees that a student needs some time to refocus.

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