Tools and Strategies

Educator Name: Marty Guiney
School Name: G.T. Norman Elementary School

Many children today have difficulties with sensory processing that affect their ability to learn, their fine motor and gross motor skill development, their ability to attend in class, and their social/emotional development within the school environment. Children who are most affected by these difficulties include children with ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, and other disabilies; however, these are not the only students that have difficulties with sensory processing that affects school performance. There are tools and strategies available that can help children with sensory processing difficulties. These include tools such as special seat cushions to allow for extra movement, excercise tools that can be used by entire classrooms to help with improving attention, special paper to help students with visual-processing problems, weighted materials that can give calming sensory input to students who can get overloaded by their hypersensitivities, and tools to help students who struggle with fine motor skills. It is our goal to develop a resource closet filled with these types of tools that teachers can access for students in need in their classrooms. This closet would be stocked by the occupational therapist (the professional that specializes in sensory processing problems and fine motor skill development). Guidance for its use would also be provided by the occupational therapist.

Students with sensory processing problems may have hypersensitivities to sensory input such as touch, sounds, or movement. A school environment can sometimes provide too much sensory input to these students. Having tools available such as weighted materials that provide calming sensory input, putty and therabands for calming propioceptive input, and ear muffs to reduce noxious sounds can help a student to cope with his hypersensitivities. Other students have a hard time paying attention in class or sitting still through a class because their sensory systems require more input. These students benefit from extra movement and proprioceptive input (input through the muscles and joints that helps to regulate the nervous system) provided by ball chairs, wiggle cushions, putty, and theraband exercises. Students who struggle with visual-motor processing can benefit fom the use of adapted paper and pencil grips to help with improving handwriting skills. All of these tools help students to participate in the classroom instruction more appropriately and effectively. The students who benefit from such tools are often the ones who take up a lot of the teacher's time to help them keep on task. These tools help the student to do tasks more independently.