Back-to-School Tips May Help Ease Sensory Overload in Kids08/30/13
FRIDAY, Aug. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Transitioning from summer to
a new school year is hard for any kid, but it is particularly
difficult for children who have trouble processing new sensations,
according to an expert on what is known as "sensory processing
Sensory processing disorder is a neurological problem that
affects behavior and learning. For kids with this disorder, too
much sensory overload or the wrong kind of stimulation can lead to
problems with attention, coordination and impulsiveness as the
child tries to either increase or decrease the sensations they are
Varleisha Gibbs, an assistant professor of occupational therapy
at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, explained that the
transition back to school disrupts the daily routines that these
children have established during the summer. She noted, however,
planning ahead can help ease the stress of this transition.
"Students with sensory processing disorders typically struggle with adapting to change," Gibbs said in a university news release. "A new school year brings an abundance of changes, including new teachers and classmates, schedules and routines, classrooms and settings, as well as new demands and expectations in the classroom."
To ease the transition to a new school year for children with
sensory processing disorders, Gibbs recommended that children,
teachers and parents or caregivers take the following steps:
- Plan a visit.Before the first day of class, arrange a visit
to the school to familiarize the child with the school setting and
the teacher. If possible, take photos of the surroundings to help
the child acclimate to the environment ahead of time.
- Be proactive.Reach out to the school early to inform
administrators about the child's therapy schedule. A child's
private occupational therapy sessions should be coordinated with
any therapy offered at school so they do not overlap.
- Pack a sensory kit.Certain fidget devices may help keep
children calm and focused during a stressful transition time. These
objects include stress balls, seat cushions, gum and music with
headphones. Teachers can also provide a variety of seating options
in the classrooms, including beanbag chairs and therapy balls.
- Be open.Because not all children with sensory processing
disorders are placed in special education, communicating a child's
needs to teachers and school administrators can help ensure they
are able to benefit from their calming strategies. For example,
these children may need to chew gum in class or listen to
headphones between classes.
- Shop early.Purchase backpacks and school clothes well in
advance so children can try them on and identify any items that are
bothersome or uncomfortable. Be sure to remove all tags, wash the
clothes and find underwear that can alleviate any irritability from
the fabric rubbing against the skin.
- Set an example.When parents are calm and collected, it's
easier for children to feel the same way about going back to
The SPD Foundation has more about
sensory processing disorder.
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.