Sensory Integration Disorder Classroom Strategies

Instructor: Elizabeth Hemmons

Beth has taught early childhood education, including students with special needs, for the past 11 years. She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education.

Sensory integration disorder, or more commonly known as sensory processing disorder, can be challenging to deal with in the classroom. In this lesson, we will discuss simple, effective classroom strategies for students with sensory integration disorder.

Understanding Sensory Integration Disorder

Imagine sitting in a classroom, trying to focus enough to learn and being completely overwhelmed with everything. Not only do the sounds of the other students and the teacher become too much, but visual stimulations are everywhere. Even the clothes that you wear drive you crazy because of the way they feel against your skin. This is how it can feel for a child who has sensory integration disorder.

Sensory integration disorder, more commonly known as sensory processing disorder (SPD), is a condition in which the brain has difficulty receiving and responding to information that is delivered through the senses. This disorder can cause difficulty with one or more of the senses. It can cause students to be over-sensitive or under-sensitive to their senses. SPD can make daily life and simple tasks more difficult. However, if one of your students has been identified with SPD, there are strategies that you can use to help him or her be more successful in the classroom.

Strategies for Classroom Environment

Making simple changes to your classroom environment can help your SPD students learn more effectively because they're easily distracted by sounds or noises. Try to eliminate any unnecessary noises, such as computers, air conditioning, cell phones, talking, etc. so that your student can be focused on you and your instruction.

Limit visual distractions in your classroom by removing non-essential posters and pictures so your students' eyes are on you during learning time. Keep your classroom organized and free of clutter. This provides a calming, secure learning environment. It can also be beneficial for your SPD student to sit in the front of the classroom so he or she can focus and maintain attention on the teacher.

It is also important to have clear and consistent classroom routines and rules. This will help to make your SPD students feel more secure and in more control throughout the day. Provide a visual schedule to help prepare them for what is ahead. Make sure that your classroom is warm and inviting and also that you have a calm and patient attitude toward the student.

Strategies for Classroom Instruction

Simple modifications or accommodations can be made during instructional time to help students with SPD focus better and not become hyper-stimulated. SPD students can be looked at as 'bad' but most of their behaviors come from moments of sensory overload. If opportunities for sensory breaks can be provided, it can help to limit negative behaviors.

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