By Jeanette Kevra, OTRL
Going back to school can be a stressful time for both children and parents alike. This is especially true for kids with sensory processing challenges.
Here are some fun sensory-based ideas to ease the transition into the school year and help makes things easier on everyone.
1. Preview the upcoming school year
Some kids with sensory concerns have difficulty with unpredictability and lack of control over their environments. To support their ability to better predict and anticipate, preview the upcoming school year for your child.
Take them to the school so they can see where they will be going, show them the playground to familiarize them with the equipment they will encounter, have a calendar handy in the home so they can see what day they will be starting school, and check if you can meet their teacher or see the classroom prior to the first day. Be patient and support your child with previewing as much as you can.
2. Get comfortable with school supplies
Get your child excited and ready to go back to school with fun and motivating sensory games. Have your child dig for hidden crayons, pencils, erasers, and other school supplies in a large bin of rice, beans, sand or (if they love getting messy) shaving cream. Once they find them all, they can put them in their backpack for school use.
If your child is learning the alphabet, hide letters around your home and have your child go on a hunt. You can add sensory elements by creating obstacle courses for your child to climb, crawl, or jump through as they go on their hunt to find all the letters. It’s also a great visual activity to add to their school preparation.
3. Prepare with Writing
Incorporate handwriting into school preparation by having your child write a letter to their upcoming teacher, write a letter to their friends telling them about their summer, or journal about what they are looking forward to for the school year.
4. Take them Shopping
Take your child shopping with you for back to school clothes. This allows them to be involved in their clothing options for school as well as give them a bit of control and active participation with the back to school process. If your child has tactile (touch) sensitivities related to clothing, you can support this by washing the clothing several times before wearing to change the texture to a softer feel and cut the tags out in the back of shirts/pants.
5. Provide Deep Pressure Input
For first day of school jitters, put several of your child’s favorite (heavy) books in their backpack to take with them; this added deep pressure input can promote a calmer, more organized state of arousal for the first day.
Jeanette Kevra is an Occupational Therapist at the Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-Motor & Social Connections, Inc. She is a is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a master’s degree in occupational therapy. She has attended numerous courses in sensory integration and has received training and education in DIR/Floortime.