Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sensory Friendly Schools

How to create a Sensory Friendly SchoolImage result

In the school world, we are currently using a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) model to address the needs of students including sensory needs.  We are all sensory beings. We use our senses throughout the day everyday. In school, we need sensory input to help us maintain an appropriate level of alertness in order to learn. 

Tier One 

- Movement Breaks - almost all of my classroom engage in some type of movement break. Many of them use Go Noodle, which is a website that has dance videos/songs for children.

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- Flexible Seating - several of my classrooms are set up in a way that students may complete their individual or small group work in various areas of the classroom with different types of seating. The various types of seating include - sitting on the floor, laying on the floor, kneeling, standing, siting on a therapy ball or a core/stability stool, etc.

Tier two

Consider the needs of the student such as being over-stimulated versus under-stimulated. Provide students with jobs that helps them stay regulated such as taking the library books to the media center, delivering a message or note to a teacher, helping pass out snack, helping clean/wipe down tables, having him/her run a quick lap between subjects, helping move the chairs in the morning, use of a study carrel, etc. This student may also benefit from the use of a calm box with such things as hand fidgets, putty, items that help them calm, cards/visuals for taking deep breaths and counting, etc.

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Study Carrel

Tier Three

Consult with the Occupational Therapist. This student may need sensory supports/strategies such as theraband wrapped around the legs of his/her chair, use of a mov'n sit cushion or dis-co-sit cushion,  weighted lap pad, a chewy topper or chewelry, noise cancelling headphones, potentially use of a weighted vest or pressure vest, break cards and a sensory diet with scheduled breaks throughout the day.  This student may benefit from a group such as the Zones of Regulation as well.
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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Yoga/ Movement Groups in Special Education Classroom

This school year I took on a new adventure and started a yoga/movement group in one of my separate setting special education classrooms.  This classroom has students with a diagnosis of Autism, Down's Syndrome and Intellectual Disability.  I decided to do this because several of the students have sensory issues, difficulty with regulation and behavior, and difficulty with motor planning. This has turned out to be the highlight of my week. The seem to love it too.

Benefits of Yoga

  • Breathwork reduces anxiety, helps kids cope with stress, and behavioral regulation

  • Helps calm the mind, improves concentration, attention-span, memory function, and learning ability

  • Improves balance, body awareness, alignment, strength, flexibility, and posture

As an OT, I have made the experience therapeutic from start to finish. The students assist with rearranging the furniture in the room, which provides some heavy work prior to yoga. Next, the students retrieve their Mats, unroll them, and remove shoes (and sometimes socks), which addresses self-care skills and independence. I have the students begin by checking in and letting me know how they are feeling at the beginning of the group which involves social skills and self-regulation. We turn off the lights and play calming music with a visual on the smart board, which provides auditory and visual input. We start with breathing and stretching. Then move into yoga poses and movement, which provided proprioceptive and vestibular input. We end the session with mindfulness, deep breathing and laying on the mats. Clean-up is similar to set-up in that students provide feedback on how they feel, put shoes back on, roll up mats, and replace furniture.


The progress has been great!  I have one student who wouldn't remove his shoes at the beginning of the year but is finally comfortable with that transition. Several of the students has improved their motor planning and ability to imitate positions which is huge for students with Autism.