So, now you know each student’s sensory preferences and aversions. What do I do with this knowledge? Help your students make a list of the items and strategies that will help them. I recommend making a sensory kit for the classroom. You can set this up as one large classroom kit or small individual kits per student. Choice is yours. Try to not refer these items as “toys”, consider instead referring to the items in the kit as “tools” to help support learning. It’s imperative that you, as the teacher, firmly distinguish between using these sensory tools and “playtime”. These tools are not for playing but to better engage with the information and learning presented.
Some possible tools for the kit could include but are not limited to:
- Fidget toys (spinners, squishy ball, any small item the student can twirl, roll, rub, etc)
- CD/music with “movement break” songs
- Headphones for music OR to drown out noise
- A quiet space in the room
- Pillows of differing textures and firmness
- Sensory bottles (plastic bottles filled with items such as beans, rice, googly eyes, water, colored water, beads, etc.)
- Photos of different stretches/movements
- A weighted blanket
- Stretchy bands
- Scented lotion or essential oils
- Play dough
The fun part is your students can help create and assemble their own tools and sensory materials. This will help create ownership and responsibility on their part if they have a hand in making their personal items. Besides, this project can be a lot of hands on fun for your students.
Remember, you as the teacher must set the precedence for these sensory materials. Set firm ground rules on when and how to use these items. Try role-play of “what to do” and “what not to do” with your students so there will not be any room for confusion later. I would also recommend creating a Sensory Tool Contract where the student needs to check an item out and he/she promises to use the tool appropriately.
Author: Kelly Dale, School Psychologist