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8 Strategies To Meet Your Child’s Sensory Needs At School

If your child is receiving occupational therapy (OT) services at school, something that may have been mentioned are their sensory needs. Prior to receiving  interventions in the school setting, you may have heard from teachers that your child is fidgety, has difficulty paying attention, doesn’t remain in their seat, struggles with directions, or that they have other behavioral problems.

Once these behaviors have been identified as having a sensory component, there are various strategies that may be implemented within the classroom and school environment to help your child. These strategies may include:

1. Providing your child with fidgets during the day

Your child’s OT may offer fidgets for them to use in the classroom to keep their hands busy so that are not distracting other students. This may include, spinner fidgets, pieces of textured material, stress balls, pencils with built in fidgets, a small container of play-dough, or theraband placed on the legs of their chair. Using a fidget may help them focus and calm their bodies.

2. Providing preferential seating

Your child may be easily distracted by looking at other students or items within the classroom. The teacher and therapist may decide that it is best to place your child near the front of the room to reduce these distractions, or in a seat near an adult so that they can be redirected.

3. Utilizing movement breaks throughout the day

If your child is fidgety, has difficulties remaining in their seat, or appears to lose focus when sitting for too long, movement breaks may be beneficial.  The teacher may incorporate whole class movement breaks or an assistant may take them into the hallway. These could include things like yoga poses, jumping jacks, cross marches, animal crawls, weighted backpack walks, or simply a walk around the school.

4. Reducing distractions within the classroom

As mentioned above in number 2, moving your child’s seat may be beneficial to reduce visual distractions. Other strategies to decrease auditory or visual distractions include the use of headphones during loud times like music or recess, or providing simplified worksheets with less pictures and additional text.

5. Use of adapted seating

Adaptive seating options are a great way to help a student remain focused while learning. Wiggle seats, medicine balls, or wobble cushions can be used to improve core strength and provide movement while your child is completing classroom assignments. Small amounts of movement that are provided with things like adapted seating or fidgets can help with active listening and focus.

6. The use of visual timers

Oftentimes, having their day broken down into smaller components can make it easier for your child to focus on their current task. If a timer is available so that they know, “when the timer goes off I will get to go in the hall and do jumping jacks”, they have motivation to complete their current assignment because a reward/break will be available after.

7. The use of a visual schedule to prepare for transitions

Not knowing what is coming next while at school may be stressful for your child. As children get older and start to understand what their bodies need to regulate, it will be easier for them to prepare for activities throughout the day and request a break if necessary. For example, if your child sees on their schedule that they have a math test after gym class, they might request yoga time to calm their body for the test. If your child is not able to request these tasks, it is helpful to add sensory breaks into their schedule for a teacher or classroom assistant to implement.  If your child has difficulties with behavior as well as sensory regulation, the use of a “first, then” schedule can be used. (First art class, then animal crawls). This is a more simplified version of a schedule that can be used while your child is learning the routine. 

8. Use of a weighted or compression vest

If your child’s OT has determined that they seek proprioceptive input (heavy work) or deep pressure, they may implement a weighted or compression vest program. A compression vest may feel like a hug to your child which can be calming. A weighted vest provides additional input to their joints which can also calm their body.

Oftentimes sensory needs are discussed during your child’s IEP or ETR meeting or during school conferences. This is a great time to ask the team what strategies have been implemented in the school and also suggest strategies that are used at home. It is important to remember that as the parent, you see your child in different situations than their team at school does.

An open line of communication can improve your child’s sensory regulation skills both at home as well as in the school setting. For example, you may be able to suggest games that your child likes to play at home that can be calming, like dimming the lights and using play-dough. The reduced visual stimuli (bright lights) and added proprioceptive input to their hands (play-dough) may also work in the school setting during quiet independent work time like that expected in a science class.

At school, the class may take yoga breaks and complete a few calming poses prior to independent reading time. This may also be beneficial to do at home before sitting at the table to do homework.

Using similar sensory strategies throughout the day, both at home and school may help everyone figure out what works best for your child and help to create a routine. If you have questions about sensory techniques that can be beneficial for your child, ask their OT. The whole team wants to ensure that you are working together to determine what is best for your child!

-Morgan Petroff, OTR/L

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Patient Reviews

Crystal Scheibe

Great place, glad we found them. Been going to Medina over 2 months now and he loves Lauryn and Kyler. Wish they had more ABA therapy places available... live in Wooster and long drive everyday.

Karrie Swan LaRock

My 11 year old son has dyslexia and has made noticeable gains in working At LLA THERAPY. Katie is strong in her approach toward him and also keeps him comfortable enough to perform well. We will continue visiting both the Fairlawn and Hudson offices and recommend them highly.

Ron Monroe

My 9 year old just completed about 9 months of weekly speech sessions (due to his stuttering) with Matt Hagge at LLA and we are thrilled with the experience and results. What I thought might be a negative (what kid really wants to go to speech class?) was made very positive by Matt, and my son never hesitated or complained when we talked about class. He really enjoyed it and really took what Matt taught him to heart. His speech has been greatly improved and we definitely recommend LLA. Thank you so much!

Heather Dougherty-Pantoja

My son’s Occupational Therapist, Jess, is an amazing OT! She gives practical tips on working with my son at home and school!

Terri Apgar

I cannot say enough good things about LLA Therapy. My daughter was a client of Teal Simmons’ for approximately 2 years and was just released from speech therapy! She was diagnosed with Apraxia in 2015 and worked with Teal twice a week. Through Teal’s application of PROMPT therapy, my daughter had age-appropriate speech after one year. All of the staff we interacted with at LLA were absolutely wonderful. They really care about what they do and making sure your child achieves their goals.

Kelli Geisler Davisson

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for my son as well as my family! My son always asks, "When can I go see Ms. Jeannine again, is it Monday??" He has also made huge gains in only 5 months! I would highly recommend LLA and have already shared my experience with friends looking for services!

Victoria Hansford-Price

We are so grateful for our Speech Therapist Ms.Teal. We have seen a great improvement with our sons confidence and communication abilities since we have started "Prompt" therapy. What we love the most about LLA and Ms. Teal is that Kohl feels comfortable and relaxed which has played a critical role in his progress. Thank you Ms. Teal for all you have done.

Laura Lee Hogsett

They have helped in numerous ways. Speech, OT and behavioral. I've had numerous compliments on my son's progress thanks in very large part to LLA. I would recommend LLA before I recommend our local children's hospitals, though they are good, they don't have the staff that LLA does.

Amy Furukawa

We had a great experience with Matt Hagge at LLA! Our Middle School age son was becoming very conscious of his voice, which is nasal due to a cleft palate. Matt helped him to better form his sounds and project his voice in a way that makes the unavoidable nasality less noticeable.Our son is more confident and outgoing & even took on a speaking role in the church play. Matt has the perfect personality to relate with our son, and we would recommend him to anyone needing speech therapy services!

Jessica Havalotti

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for our daughter. I would highly recommend LLA. Miss Grace was so amazing and I can't believe how quickly our daughter showed improvement. Thank you!
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