Supporting Pupils with Sensory Issues

What are Sensory Processing Difficulties?
We have eight areas of sensory input:
  • Visual (Sight)
  • Auditory (Hearing)
  • Olfactory (Smell)
  • Gustatory (Taste)
  • Tactile System (Tells you where you end and the rest of the world begins)
  • Vestibular System (Movement and balance sense)
  • Proprioception  (Receptors in our joints, tendons and muscles provide an automatic sense of body awareness)
  • Interoception (Messages to the brain e.g. hungry)
Children can have sensory processing difficulties in any of the areas outlined above.
Some children may be over responsive - hypersensitive - in one area (e.g. overly sensitive to loud sounds) and under responsive - hyposensitive- in another area (e.g. have limited perception of pain.)
To enable a child to learn, pay attention, moderate behaviour and interact with others, their nervous system needs to be in an optimal, well-regulated state.  In this state, our nervous system is able to process information efficiently by filtering out any sensory information considered unimportant, helping us to stay calm and functional in our surroundings.
Some children have difficulties processing sensory information and with attaining and maintaining a well-regulated state. This is known as Dysregulation.  
Signs of Dysregulation:
  • Concentration difficulties/distracted
  • Fidgeting or floppy
  • Over excited
  • Dislikes anything on hands or feet
  • Hypervigilant
  • Putting hands over ears
  • Sensory seeking behaviours - rocking, tapping, chewing
  • Intolerance of multi-sensory environments e.g. busy places, classrooms, corridors, queues
  • Aggression
  • Running away

Please see the table for more details of observable behaviours to identify sensitivities.

Supporting children to self-regulate
Working together with parents, we would note and observe behaviours and agree strategies to trial which could help regulate. This information would be recorded in an individual Pastoral Support Plan.  (See example)
If you think your child may have significant difficulties with sensory processing, then a referral to an Occupational Therapist could be sought.  
Strategies and Techniques to help children regulate include:
  • Implementing a sensory diet - personal activity plans
  • Movement breaks
  • Help them improve body awareness
  • Using a wobble cushion
  • Quiet space/ time alone
  • Tight squeeze/press down on shoulders
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Regulating Food and drink  (healthy crunchy food snacks,drink through a straw)
  • Fidget toy
  • Weighted blanket
  • Theraband on legs of chair
  • Chew toy
  • Sensory corner
  • Heavy jobs, carrying, moving furniture, digging garden
Recommended Reading:
Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals: A Practical Daily Use Handbook for Parents and Teachers by Angie Voss
Useful Websites:
Extend Learning