As a parent, we want to see our children in a safe, secure and enabling environment which provides optimal sensory stimulation to focus, learn and to thrive in their learning journey each day.
As the diagram depicts (in the photo gallery above) our brain (central nervous system) receives sensory information in a controlled and regulated manner which helps us to focus and learn. It is noted that 80% of brain is involved in processing of sensory information; we take sensations from different sensory systems to our brain and process the information for learning and functions.
On one hand our senses help us to stay calm and alert, while on the other hand efficient sensory processing helps us to learn and perform well in the desired activity.
Responses to sensory stimulation can vary in children. Each individual has a unique regulatory-sensory profile which we can term as ‘temperament’. Some children can be over-responsive to sensory stimulation which presents as being active with high energy levels; they tend to be consistently moving, crashing, bumping and may demonstrate impulsive behaviours. It can be challenging to engage them in traditional learning environments.
Conversely, some children may be under-responsive and present as quiet and passive. They can be enthralled by a world of their own imagination, may have difficulty in engaging and can appear withdrawn and lethargic. They may appear to lack of inner drive or show clumsiness with their movements.
Over- or underactive sensory processing can both impact on a child’s attention and learning.
Sensory Processing Differences in children can manifest in many ways:
- Challenges with social skills
- Lack of participation in classwork
Difficulties with sensory processing may mean that a child feels they ‘stand out’ which can result in low self-confidence and self-esteem. It is important for teachers and parents to be aware of their child’s unique sensory profile and help them with strategies to regulate their attention and behaviour in the classroom so that they are able to participate in the class activities effectively and cope with learning situations.
Sensory Integration is one of the methods which helps to regulate children’s attention and prepare them for learning in the classroom. An individualised sensory program can include an enriched sensory environment and sensory diet activities to develop effective sensory regulation and processing in order to meet the needs of an individual who may be struggling with sensory processing.
Occupational Therapists in the school evaluate children’s unique sensory profiles and help to plan sensory activities in the child’s daily routine, which encourage optimal attention needed for classroom learning. The therapist and teachers work together to determine the structure and frequency of activities to facilitate behavioural organisation and attention.
A sensory diet intervention is a guided treatment which is designed by a trained Occupational Therapist and can be delivered by parents, teachers and caregivers, under the supervision of therapist.
If you think your child may benefit from support with sensory processing, please speak to your class teacher.