Assembly can be difficult for students with sensory needs. A student who is overresponsive to sensory input may find Assembly overwhelming due to the noise, unpredictable visual input from others and the close physical proximity of other students. A student who is underresponsive to sensory input may find it difficult to stay alert and engaged in a quiet Assembly, and may seek more movement, noise or tactile input.
If a student seems overwhelmed in Assembly, the following strategies are suggested:
- Position the student at the end of a row so he/she can have more physical space and avoid the unpredictable tactile input from others.
- Allow the student to sit on a mat or cushion to indicate personal space which others cannot invade.
- Position the student at the back of the Assembly hall with permission to leave if feeling overwhelmed.
- Allow the student to wear ear defenders (or similar) to reduce the noise input, but these should only be used as part of a desensitisation programme. This means that the use should gradually be reduced over time until the student can tolerate the noise of Assembly without nearing ear defenders.
- Allow the student to use a calming resource in Assembly. This will vary according to the individual preferences of the student but examples include a weighted lap cushion, a fidget item or a chewy item.
- Provide the student with a visual card to indicate when he/she is feeling overwhelmed and needs to leave the Assembly Hall.
- Introduce the student to Assembly gradually, and increase the time spent in Assembly over several weeks or months. Steps in this process may include:
- Student sits at the back of Assembly for 1 minute and then leaves to sit outside the Hall.
- Increase the time spent at the back of the Hall by a minute each time until the student can tolerate the full Assembly.
- The student then sits with class for 1 minute and then moves to the back of the Hall.
- Increase by a minute each time until the student can sit with the class for the full Assembly.
- Other strategies listed above can be integrated within this process.
- Provide the student with a visual schedule for Assembly and each part can be marked off when complete.
- Use a visual timer to indicate how long Assembly will last.
If a student is seeking increased stimulation in Assembly to improve alertness and attention, the following strategies are suggested:
- If seeking more movement, allow the student to sit on a Movin’ sit cushion.
- Provide a movement activity before the student is expected to sit for a length of time in Assembly.
- Give the student a role in Assembly which will provide increased sensory input e.g. holding the door open, setting out or stacking chairs.
- If seeking tactile input, allow the student access to a fidget item.
- In longer Assemblies, the student may need to leave the Hall for a short movement break and then return.
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