Five Sensory Tips to Ease the Transition Back To School
Is your child more active than usual? Is his/her attention or focus hard to maintain? The start of a new school year can be a chaotic and stressful time for both kids and parents. This is especially true for kids with sensory processing challenges, as changes are difficult and can be hard to manage.
To support this transitional time and help makes things easier on the family, here are some fun sensory tips and other ideas for back-to-school time.
1. Visual Schedules
Try to incorporate structure and routine into daily life as much as possible. Having a solid routine supports a child’s ability to anticipate what is to come, assisting in task-follow through and completion. A visual schedule is easy to create and helps a child understand what the day has in store.
2. Provide the right types of sensory input
Providing children with vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile input can support an organized and regulated state of arousal. This leads to increased times of focus, attention, and a better ability to meet environmental and social demands necessary to complete academic tasks throughout the school day.
Have your child complete simple sensory tasks before the school day begins, such as twirling in a circle (to gain movement/vestibular input), engage in animal walks around the house such as crab or bear walks (to gain active resistive/proprioceptive input), or have a fidget to hold onto while in the car or bus to school (to gain touch/tactile input).
Talk to your child’s teacher and/or therapist about incorporating sensory breaks into the classroom schedule to support a calm and focused state for your child. An occupational therapist can suggestion additional sensory ideas for the home setting with a specific program tailored to your child.
3. Provide Deep Pressure During the Day
For calming input throughout the school day, pack your child’s backpack with several of your their favorite (heavy) books. This added deep-pressure input can support calming their overall energy level and promote a regulated, more focused state for the day!
4. Stay Focused on Homework
To support timely homework completion, try using a visual or auditory timer. Set the timer for a specific time limit and encourage your child to complete a certain number of homework pages/problems. If they complete them in the allotted time, reward with a sensory break or other positive incentive. Using specific demands and instructions as well as rewards and reinforcers can eliminate the hassles that often accompany this challenging area of school.
5. Transition to Bedtime
End your child’s day with calming techniques to lower their overall energy level, leading to a good night’s rest and a rested feeling for the next school day. Deep pressure, massages over the arms and legs, the use of weighted blankets, slow rocking/swinging, and decreased auditory and visual input can lead to a sense of calm.
Jeanette Jones is the assistant director of occupational therapy and sensory integration programs at the Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-Motor, & Social Connections, Inc.
She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Jeanette previously worked in private practice with children with sensory integration challenges and other developmental delays. She has attended numerous courses in sensory integration and has received training and education in DIR/Floortime.