Special education classrooms often have to deal with sensory sensitivity, which can make teaching difficult.
Sensory sensitivity is when a student has a heightened sensitivity to certain stimuli in their environment, including sounds, smells, and textures. This can affect their ability to focus on lessons and lead to disruptive behavior. There are many techniques and tools available to help teachers manage students with sensory sensitivity.
Managing Students with Sensory Sensitivity
One technique for managing students with sensory sensitivity is environmental modification. This means changing the environment in ways that help the student remain focused on tasks without being overwhelmed by sensory input.
For example, a classroom might use noise-canceling headphones or provide bean-bag chairs to help reduce the effects of sound in the room.
The setting can also be adjusted to provide different lighting levels or reduce visual clutter on walls or desks. Other modifications might include allowing the student to take breaks throughout the day or reducing 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 for the student but at lower levels until they become more tolerant of it over time.
An example of this could be playing music at progressively louder volumes during lessons so that students gradually become more comfortable with louder noises without feeling overwhelmed by them.
Desensitization also works for other types of sensory overload, like loud conversations or certain textiles used in clothing or furniture items around the classroom.
Tools to Help 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 grey noise. It also has a variety of other features that can be used for other purposes in the classroom, so it is a good investment for special ed teachers!
There are also weighted blankets, lap pads, and other items designed specifically to provide soothing pressure, which may reduce anxiety in students with difficulty regulating themselves due to sensory overload.
Other useful tools include:
- Noise-canceling headphones.
- Tactile fidgets like squishy balls or putty toys that can be manipulated in class without disrupting others.
- Aromatherapy diffusers that disperse calming scents into a room without overpowering them for those sensitive to smell triggers.
Here are some of our favorite things! (They are affiliate links which means that if you decide to purchase anything, we receive a very small amount of compensation for your purchase. It does not impact your purchase price at all.)
- We have found that these noise-canceling headphones work well in the special ed classroom.
- These are some of our favorite fidget toys.
- We love this seating apparatus for the classroom!
Other strategies for managing sensory sensitivity might include:
1. Creating a safe and comfortable space: This can be done by providing visual cues like calming colors, soft lighting, and using noise-canceling headsets or headphones to help block out loud noises.
2. Establishing clear rules: Providing clear expectations and guidelines for acceptable behavior helps students with sensory sensitivities feel more secure 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.
By using these tools and techniques, teachers in special education classrooms can help manage students with sensory sensitivity and create a calmer, more productive learning environment for everyone. With the right strategies in place, students with sensory issues can still have successful educational experiences.