Special education classrooms often have to deal with sensory sensitivities, which can make teaching difficult.
Sensory sensitivity is when a student has an increased sensitivity to certain stimuli in their environment, including sounds, smells, and textures. This can affect their ability to concentrate in class and lead to disruptive behaviour. There are many techniques and tools available to help teachers manage students with sensory sensitivities.
Managing students with sensory sensitivities
One technique for managing students with sensory sensitivities is environmental modification. This means changing the environment in a way that helps the student stay focused on tasks without being overwhelmed by sensory input.
For example, the classroom can use noise-canceling headphones or provide chairs with beanbags to help reduce the effects of sound in the room.
Settings can also be adjusted to provide different lighting levels or reduce visual clutter on walls or tables. Other accommodations may include allowing the student to take breaks during the day or limiting sensations such as temperature changes caused by air conditioning or open windows.
Another technique is called desensitization therapy. This involves gradually introducing stimuli that would otherwise cause distress to the learner, but at lower levels, until they become more tolerant of it over time.
An example of this could be playing music at progressively higher volumes during class so that students gradually become comfortable with louder sounds without feeling overwhelmed by them.
Desensitization also works for other types of sensory overload, such as loud conversations or certain textiles used in clothing or classroom furniture.
Tools to help you with sensory sensitivity
In addition to these techniques, there are several specialized tools that teachers can use to manage students with sensory issues in special education classrooms. The Calm app is one tool that provides auditory soothing with gray noise. It also has a number of other features that can be used for other purposes in the classroom, making it a good investment for special educators!
There are also weighted blankets, lap pads, and other items designed specifically to provide soothing pressure, which can reduce anxiety in students who have difficulty regulating due to sensory overload.
Other useful tools include:
- Noise canceling headphones.
- Tactile things like squishy balls or putty toys that can be manipulated in the classroom without disturbing others.
- Aromatherapy diffusers that diffuse soothing scents into the room without overpowering them for those sensitive to odor triggers.
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Other strategies for managing sensory sensitivity may include:
1. Creating a safe and comfortable space: This can be done by providing visual cues such as soothing colors, soft lighting, and using headphones or noise-canceling headphones to help block out loud sounds.
2. Setting clear rules: Providing clear expectations and guidelines for acceptable behavior helps students with sensory sensitivities feel safer as they learn and interact with peers.
3. Teaching self-regulation skills: When appropriate, teachers should try to teach students with sensory sensitivities the skills they need to be able to regulate their own behavior and responses.
Using these tools and techniques, special education teachers can help manage students with sensory sensitivities and create a calmer and more productive learning environment for everyone. With the right strategies, students with sensory issues can still have successful learning experiences.