Thank you to NEARI’s Smoothies for the Brain author Penny Cuninggim for providing this article to share.
Shannon Chabot, NEARI’s coordinator and school consultant in the areas of sensory integration and reflex and motor development, hosts this blog and explains the importance of sensory development and learning. He built the list below that both provides teachers with some useful sensory tools and shares their impact on areas of learning readiness.
Our nervous systems begin the process of learning long before birth. This learning continues to change and grow as we experience life through the senses of touch, taste, smell, sound, sight, movement, body position, and response to gravity. Appropriate development allows for the organization or integration of the input we experience through the senses. However, sometimes for various reasons, children deviate from this developmental path and need help to navigate the sensory world. This includes managing the senses for optimal performance in school. Performance begins with readiness skills that are developed as one’s body coordinates movement–to sit up, attend, focus the eyes, calm the arms and legs, organize speech, and use hands to write and manipulate objects.
Here are some commonly used tools and movements that help with various areas of learning.
Sensory Tools or Movement: Weighted vest, blanket or lap pad; special (Sound Health) music played during class, spin board or sit and spin; mindfulness activities and use of sensory items in a separate quiet space
Areas of Learning Impacted: Emotional and behavioral regulation (calming)
Sensory Tools or Movement: Resistive foot bands at the desk, body sox, use of exercise ball, massagers; rolling the head and neck around slowly; squirming purposively in chair; rocking back and forth
Area of Learning Impacted: Body awareness
Sensory Tools or Movement: Thera-putty, Play Dough, moon sand, writing grips, hand-held stretchy items, drawing, fidget tools
Areas of Learning Impacted: Touch, tactile input, fine motor coordination, hand strength
Sensory Tools or Movement: Noise reducing or canceling headphones, white noise machines, working in a quiet room
Area of Learning Impacted: Auditory sensitivity
Sensory Tools or Movement: Oral stimulation items like sugar-free candy; a walking break, bouncing a ball, using a mini- trampoline, pushing or pulling activities, chewing on swivel stick, drinking water, squeezing and relaxing the large muscles of the body
Areas of Learning Impacted: Focus and attention, calming
Sensory Tools or Movement: Exercise ball, integrated movement practice
Areas of Learning Impacted: Muscle strength, gross motor skills
Sensory Tools or Movement: Sitting on a bean bag, camp cushion, soft chair, rocking chair or balance disc; stretching
Areas of Learning Impacted: Ways to relax and take a break from postural control required for sitting at a desk
Sensory Tools or Movement: Irlen-colored overlays; eye muscle exercises to correct fusion, convergence and divergence; reading windows or straight edges for tracking words across a page
Areas of Learning Impacted: Blurry, choppy vision and coping with letters that jump or sag on the page; focus or accommodation issues; midline or eye tracking issues
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