sensory processing disorder and the classroom

sensory processing issuesand the classroom
Does your child sit still in class? Does the teacher complain that your child isn’t focused? Does your child come home and act like a monkey that’s been let out of its cage?

Last week I was chatting with a friend whose daughter, Alexa, is having some issues in school. Not big issues, some of the exact situations I listed above. Alex’s teacher is saying things like, “She’s so smart, I don’t need to remind her,” “Alex won’t sit still, she won’t do criss-cross-apple-sauce.”

A little background. Something that doesn’t define who Alexa is, but is important in what I talk about here on Lovin’ Adoptin’, which is that adopted and foster kids often have sensory processing issues or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Alexa is seven and her mom, Raena, had been noticing some interesting things about her in the past few years. When she put lotion on Alexa, she’d cry and scream, often lashing out at Raena. When Alexa put clothes on, she would say how they were uncomfortable, no matter what brand they were. Between Alexa’s parents and their daughter’s physician, they’d come to realize Alexa has sensory processing issues.

In school, one issue Alexa’s teacher has is Alexa sits on the edge of her chair during class. Once I heard a professional say that teachers really do kids an injustice when they make them sit still. Some kids learn while moving, and if it takes a child rocking quietly and gently in their chair to learn and focus, then let them.

You might wonder why Alexa doesn’t have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This is an education plan put in placed when a child has special needs, it  helps everyone meet certain goals for specific children. When a child has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), the school would have an Occupational therapist (OT) work with that child to help them stay focused in school and meet those sensory needs. The child might hold a fidget during class, sit on a balance cushion (a round disk with nodules that tilts), have sensory breaks where they can be in a dark inclosed space (hammock swing), or the OT or paraprofessional can do push/pulls to help alleviate stress on the joints.
sensory processing disorder

For some of you, it may take time to get an IEP complete, and depending on the knowledge of your schools staff, it can still take some effort to get your child’s needs taken care of. Sometimes teachers won’t recognize your child’s sensory issues and may think it’s behavior based and your child has the ability to fix it. This is how Alexa’s teacher has been viewing her, she thinks Alexa is smart, which she is, so she expects good behavior and for Alexa to remember everything she tells her and doesn’t want to remind her. She feels that reminding Alexa and helping her is enabling.

Alexa attends a private school, and the answer to Raena’s questions about an IEP is that Raena needs to go to a public school to get more information. Well, besides this being completely frustrating, Raena will need to do something in the mean time, and she’s already begun.

Raena has found articles and sections of books that pertain to what Alexa is dealing with, printed them out and shared them with Alexa’s teacher.

This is a great first step, beginning a conversation. Do your research and find out more about SPD and how to help your child, whatever helps you, share it with the teacher. Don’t bombard him or her with information, but sharing what works at home and what you feel will work at school will help your child in a big way. We’ve done this with our son’s teachers and aids, and I can’t tell you how much it’s helped Jeremiah at school.

Alexa’s teacher seems to be grasping what’s going on, but Raena doesn’t feel they’re where they want to be. During our conversation Raena mentioned going to the doctor to discuss Alexa’s sensory issues and a possible diagnosis, so I suggested she have the doctor make recommendations to the teacher.

I know it can be so frustrating to see your child struggling as the teacher makes comments and remains unaware of what’s truly happening. I’ve been unaware myself at times and forgotten the comment I mentioned above, sometimes it helps a child learn when they can move a little. My daughter doesn’t have SPD, but she often stands at the kitchen table when working on homework, coloring, or doing a project, and I can’t tell you how many times she’s fallen off the chair! I used to correct her and ask her to sit down, but finally my brain kicked in one day and I said, “Would you like to stand and do your work?” She said, “Yes,” and pushed the chair out of the way. This is how she works and thinks best. Standing or sitting, does it really matter?

I hope this helps you bridge that gap with your child’s teacher(s) and gives you information to begin working together to create a successful learning environment for your child.

Some posts by Lovin’ Adoptin’ that will help you and your child’s teacher:

Sensory Processing Disorder (part 1): What It Is
Sensory Processing Disorder (part 2): Does Your Child Have Sensory Processing Issues?
13 Funny Reasons You Know Your Child Has Sensory Processing Disorder 

Another great website that has information on SPD:
The Friendship Circle


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