How Sensory Processing Issues Affect Kids in School?

what parents and teachers can do to help children in the classroom?

our son’s second grade teacher calls to say she’s concerned about some of his behaviors in school:

  • He can’t sit still through a half-hour lesson and disrupts the class.
  • He often seems distracted and doesn’t pay attention to what she’s saying
  • He bumps into kids in the lunch line, making them angry.
  • He can’t hold a pencil correctly, so he struggles with handwriting.
  • He gets upset when asked to switch from one activity to another
  • He melts down during assemblies and has to leave the gym.

You had started noticing this type of behavior when your child was a toddler, but now it’s hurting his progress in school. You’ve been wondering if he might have ADHD. But his teacher tells you she thinks he may have sensory processing issues.

What are sensory processing issues?

Some kids seem to have trouble handling the information their senses take in—things like sound, touch, taste, sight, and smell. There are also two other less well-known senses that can be affected—the first is a sense of body awareness, while the second involves movement, balance, and coordination. Also, kids with sensory issues can be oversensitive to input, undersensitive to input, or both.

While sensory processing issues are not a learning disorder or official diagnosis, they can make it hard for children to succeed at school. For instance, overly sensitive kids respond easily to sensory stimulation and can find it overwhelming. They may:

    • Be unable to tolerate bright lights and loud noises like ambulance sirens
    • Refuse to wear clothing because it feels scratchy or irritating-even after cutting out all the tags and labels-or shoes because they feel “too tight.”
    • Be distracted by background noises that others don’t seem to hear
    • Be fearful of surprise touch, and avoid hugs and cuddling even with familiar adults
    • Be overly fearful of swings and playground equipment
    • Often have trouble knowing where their body is in relation to other objects or people
    • Bump into people and things and appear clumsy
    • Have trouble sensing the amount of force they’re applying; for example, they may rip the paper when erasing, pinch too hard or slam down objects.
    • Run off, or bolt, when they’re overwhelmed to get away from whatever is distressing them
    • Have extreme meltdowns when overwhelmed

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