We are all unique sensory beings and respond to what we feel, see, hear, touch and how we move in our own ways. How we process sensory information (sensory processing) often influences how we self-regulate our emotions and behavior.
Sensory processing is a person's way of noticing and responding to sensory messages from their bodies and the environment.1 Persons with disabilities and/or mental health difficulties may experience everyday sensations with more or less intensity than those without such challenges. Such sensory differences may influence a person’s behavior, social interaction and regulation of emotions. It is important to teach all students and adults to respect each other's sensory needs (e.g. less noise, more movement, less eye contact). Consult with the school's occupational therapist to learn more about sensory processing. Also, refer to the SPD Foundation for further information on sensory processing disorder (SPD) at www.spdfoundation.net. To learn more about sensory processing, click here to review a power point presentation entitled "Creating Sensory Friendly Environments to Promote Positive Participation for Students With and Without Disabilities" (Bazyk, 2015). Better yet, have your school's occupational therapist present this as an inservice.
Self-regulation is the ability to manage and control our emotions and behavior. Self-regulation helps us do what we need to do throughout the day. Consider teaching students how to self-regulate using the Zones of Regulation: A Framework for Self-Regulation & Emotional Control (Kuypers, 2011).2 Contact your school's occupational therapist and school counselor to see if they might co-teach this information to your students. Think of ways you might embed this into the curriculum. Refer to www.zonesofregulation.com to purchase the book, posters, and app.
Have students make a 'Calm Box'! Click the following links to view a quick power point movie with instructions for how to help elementary grade students create a Calm Box of materials. (Developed by Lezlie Fahl Kinder, OTR/L)
For other simple sensory strategies for creating positive environments click here.
1 Dunn, W. (2007). Supporting children to participate in everyday life by using sensory processing knowledge. Infants & Young Children, 20, 84- 101.
2 Kuypers, L. (2011). The Zones of Regulation. Social Thinking Publishing. This curriculum can be used by an interdisciplinary team. See http://www.zonesofregulation.com/the-zones-of-regulation-book.html