Sensory Hacks for Back to School Kids
It’s that time of year again. The seasonal sections of all the stores are overwhelmed with crayons, pencil boxes, paper, and backpacks. The smell of books and school cafeterias are becoming more than just vague memories. There might be a slight tremor of excitement to see friends or find out who will be in their class, but that also means there’s a lot of new. And for some kids, especially our Sensory Processing (SPD) kids, new means a lot of anxiety. Going back to school means adjusting schedules, school supply shopping, new teachers, and new classrooms. That stress compounds with an SPD kid. All of those things plus loud, colorful and busy classrooms overwhelm their senses. Then they face the pressure to meet classroom standards while they’re struggling to sit still and focus.
The Right Sensory Combination
But don’t worry. Not all hope is lost. Some kids need down time. Some need physical activity to help them cope with the stress. And for some it will just take a longer time to prepare and adjust. It really comes down to knowing your child and finding the right combination of tricks to make the best out of learning. So here are a few tips and tricks to get you started.
Prep Them Early
If your child hasn’t already started back to school, now is the time to begin preparing them. Slowly adjusting sleeping schedules can help prevent the shock and anxiety of switching from a summer sleep schedule to one more conducive to the school year. Try adjusting their meal times to match what schedule they’ll face in school. This can help decrease the worry of being hungry too soon. Anything you can do beforehand will be one less new thing to heighten anxiety.
Prepping early goes hand-in-hand with familiarizing your child to their surroundings. Children perform and cope so much better in a situation where they know what to expect and are comfortable. So taking them in to see their teachers, classrooms, cafeterias or any other rooms they might work in before the year starts can help decrease the jitters and stress.
Back to School Shopping
Have your child help with back to school shopping. If they have picked out pencils, backpacks, folders and notebooks that they like and are comfortable with, those items will be less frustrating and distracting when they work with them in class. Another important thing to have them help with is clothes shopping. Sensory kids are especially distracted by uncomfortable clothing. Have them try on the clothes first to make sure they’re soft and don’t have any rough seams or itchy tags. Then you can have them wear the outfits beforehand and even wash them to make sure they are soft and comfortable.
Keep Them Moving
Work with your child at home to make sure they get enough physical activity and encourage them to play active games during recess. This may seem like the opposite of what you want them to do, but physical activity is proven to help settle restless limbs and overactive bodies and minds. If they need some extra help, talk to their teachers about taking extra breaks in between recesses. Even simple and quick activities like stretching, jumping jacks or a walk around the room may be helpful to keep your child focused and ready to learn.
As we’ve mentioned, SPD kids tend to struggle with stress and anxiety more than most. For some, that stress manifests in pencil chewing, nail biting, or chewing on any other objects they can get their hands on. To prevent them from destroying themselves or other items you don’t want chewed up, try giving them bracelets, necklaces or even erasers specifically designed for chewing. This will help them vent the anxiety without the destruction.
Try to set up open communication with your child’s teacher. Let them be aware of situations that may cause your child to struggle or act out. Ask how your child is doing and if there is anything more you can do to help things run more smoothly. Make sure they are sitting where they can hear the teacher clearly. And discuss with the teacher special things they might need like earplugs during testing if they struggle to block out noise. Also be open to their teachers’ suggestions. They see your child everyday and can be insightful to what your child might need.
If your child struggles with SPD or other learning challenges, it is a good idea to let your teacher or school know as soon as possible. There are special accommodations and programs to help your child succeed if you work with your child’s school. Letting teachers know ahead of time helps them prepare and inform you of programs to help. Your child may also be eligible for an Individual Education Program (IEP). This program provides children with certain disabilities extra test time, and help with reading, comprehension and math.
School can be a headache, but with the right tools and preparation, you can take the pain out of the equation. Being aware and involved can lessen the stress and keep their big day full of the excitement that it should be.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs