Sensory Integration Disorder Activities

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 15 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Students with sensory integration disorder often swing between sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors. This lesson offers activities that will satisfy either of these needs in your students.

Sensory Integration Disorder

Students with sensory integration disorder have a difficult time processing all of the sensory input they have around them. This can manifest itself in two very contradictory ways:

  • Student become hyper (almost desperately sensory seeking)
  • Students shut down (sensory avoidance)

Just as the two reactions to a break down in sensory integration are polar opposites, activities to help students with this disorder seem contradictory: heavy work or quiet focus. Heavy work involves getting students moving and using all of their muscle groups; the heavier they use their bodies, the better. Quiet focus is just what it sounds like: removing the majority of sensory inputs so that sensations can be focused on in isolation. This lesson offers activities based on the main sensory needs for students with sensory integration disorder.

Heavy Work Activities

Because heavy work relates to movement, you may want to go outside for these activities as the added sensory inputs from the natural environment, like the feel of the heat from the sun or the wind on the skin, can add to the overall experience. Heavy work activities can effectively charge students' sensory needs before they're asked to do academic focus work that requires intensive sitting.

Follow the Leader

Materials

  • Outside playground if possible

Instructions

  • Line students up.
  • The student at the front of the line must lead his or her peers through whole body actions as he or she walks around the space provided, which may include climbing over or under obstacles, spinning or jumping. If you must stay in your classroom, allow students to climb over desks and under tables for this activity.
  • Students must follow the same motions as the leader. For example, if the leader spins at the seesaw, all followers must spin when they get to the seesaw.
  • Every minute (or so) send the leader to the end of the line and let the next student take over the leader role.

Simon Says - Go Big

  • None required

Instructions

  • Choose a leader from among your students.
  • Instruct the class to play ''Simon Says'' in the traditional way, with the caveat that all motions must be large, whole body type movements like jumping jacks, jump-ups, squats and toe touches.
  • Allow each leader a minute or so to be ''Simon'' before choosing another student.
  • Note: Because the point of this activity is to increase heavy work and full body motion for students with sensory integration disorder, it's counter-beneficial to penalize students for making mistakes during the game. Allow everyone to continue playing, but choose the next leader based on the best responder so that students remain motivated to try their best.

Relay Race

This game is based on filling sand bags, but you can substitute the sand and bags with piles of books. If using sand, you'll want to conduct this activity outside; if using books, this activity can be done inside, as long as there's plenty of space to move.

Materials

  • Pile of sand
  • Sand bags (or Ziploc bags)
  • Pile of books (optional )

Instructions

  • Divide your class into three or four groups.
  • Have the groups line up facing the pile of sand (or books). Each student in a group should have a bag.
  • At your signal, the first person in each group should run to the pile and collect a bag full of sand (or a pre-determined number of books) and run back to his or her group.
  • Students should continue in relay fashion until everyone in a group has completed a run.
  • To play again, have students return the sand or books to the pile.

Quiet Focus

Sometimes, students with sensory integration disorder need time to avoid extra sensations so that they can refocus their attention elsewhere. These next activities allow students to block out extra sensory input by focusing on a single form of input.

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