Utilizing Sensory Therapy in Schools

sensory therapy

If you walk into any classroom, chances are you will see at least several students struggling with one thing. Why are they having difficulties? Many are unable to focus on their work and sit still in their seats. While many may rush to judge and say that they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it may be something else. There are newer therapies which can be used with students who struggle in this area.

What is Sensory Therapy?

Sensory therapy has been used for many years now. It is often called sensory integration therapy and works with children who have sensory processing difficulties.  When exposed to sensory stimuli in a particular way, the theory is that their brain adapts. With the repetition and structure of sessions, it allows a young developing brain to process, focus, and react better.

Sensory therapy is done by an occupational therapist (OT) who has been specially trained. They are able to evaluate whether or not a child would benefit from these types of sessions. By introducing stimuli over and over, many children will become accustomed to different sensory stimuli. This happens because their nervous system steadily adjusts to it and their body learns how to cope and react when it happens again. This is not a quick process and requires a lot of time and sessions, but often is also beneficial to children who are not taking ADHD medication.

Sensory Diet in the Classroom

While children will go out of the classroom for sensory therapy, they may need additional support for when they are with their peers. Light, sounds, movement, and the stress of work can all factor into the inability for some children to stay on task in a traditional classroom. Occupational therapists will work with the classroom teacher to come up with items which will help them in the more chaotic environment. Fidgets, special seats, weighted lap pads, and a variety of other tools may be given to students to use as needed.

The key to much of this is consistency with sessions and follow through in the classroom and even at home. All those who are involved with students must be aware and in contact with the occupational therapist to keep up on what the focus is for each individual child. Some classrooms may also benefit from doing certain exercises together to work on focus and more. Even children who do not have an ADHD diagnosis will find it helpful to do certain exercises which work on focus.

Schools and districts need to look at children within your schools. Will it be beneficial to hire an occupational therapist who has special sensory therapy training? It’s also important to make sure that you have the space to devote to a therapy room which will work for this type of program. It may also be beneficial to look into what it would take to train current occupational therapists in this type of therapy. Look at online options and local college and universities for a direction to take.

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