June 25, 2017

Smart Sensory Work Increases Student Success

Erika Thomas rocks on a wobbly stool while using LEGO® during her language arts class.

Creating highly-personalized activity plans or sensory diets is vital to helping each child maximize their learning potential.

Enter Mrs. Naveh’s Social Skills class and, while Mrs. Naveh is explaining the lesson, you’ll observe a range of behaviors: Cahill is standing at his desk rolling putty, Maddie is gently bouncing on the therapy ball she uses as a chair, Liam L. stares at a laptop that displays the same image as the Smart Board on the wall, Jack looks comfy in the “comfy chair,” and Liam R. is rocking on a wobbly stool while squishing putty in his hands. And . . . ALL are engaged in the lesson being taught. How do we know? When Mrs. Naveh starts asking questions based on the lesson, every student is eager to share what they know. A testimony to excellent sensory diets (and quality teaching) at work!

A “sensory diet” is a carefully designed activity plan that helps each student stay focused and organized. Adults may tap a pencil or chew gum to stay focused, or soak in a hot tub to unwind. Similarly, children need to engage in stabilizing, focusing activities.

At Linden Grove School, students may engage in various activities throughout the day for different reasons. As students arrive at school in the morning, for example, Nicholas walks into the school building with an anxiety ridden face—an incredible scowl you just can’t ignore. A staff person immediately guides him to the Sensory Room for “swing” time: high, but not too fast, and NEVER spinning. The staff person starts talking with Nicholas, and as Nicholas gradually engages in the conversation his whole body begins to relax. The scowl softens to . . . wait for it . . . a smile. And as Nicholas is freely talking about what he did over the weekend, he’s ready—and enthusiastic for—his first class.

The power of the right sensory work should never be underestimated!

Nate Ireton focuses on the lesson displayed on his laptop while sitting on a therapy ball.

Like many of us, Nicholas Savchenko knows the calming effect of an easy swing.