There are many ways in which students can be supported in managing their own sensory needs. Detailed strategies are provided in the sections on each of the sensory systems. Some general strategies are provided below.
- Provide the student with a visual scale to indicate distress and to request a calm break
- If the student is unable to identify when he or she is becoming distressed:
- Observe the student and direct to a calm area if there are any indicators of distress or anxiety
- Identify activities which are over-stimulating for the student (e.g. P.E., playground) and schedule the student for calm breaks before, during and after these activities
- A non-verbal student may indicate becoming distressed by performing repetitive behaviours such as biting, wringing or flapping hands, pacing back and forth, rocking, in order to block out sensory input. When, or preferably before, this happens, direct student to a calm area where they can avail of sensory equipment if needed
- If a student is easily distracted by sensory stimulation, consider the position of the student in the classroom:
- Position the student away from windows and doors
- Position the student facing the front of the room and with his/her back to the class
- The student should face a blank wall when doing focused independent work, or a folder could be placed around the student’s work to minimise visual distractions
- Have only the activity to be performed on the desk
- Have little or no other sensory distractions
- Provide visual or physical boundaries (e.g. taped out areas) to help with personal boundaries.
- Some students need access to increased sensory stimuli which then improves their attention. Ensure the student has access to the required sensory input, either during work tasks, or at regular intervals throughout the day. See the Sensory Strategies section for more information according to each specific sense.
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