Lisa’s story – Supporting Sensory at School

Sensory differences are thought to occur in between 5-16% of the population.  This means up to four students in a mainstream classroom may experience sensory differences.  As explained in our post What is SPD?, sensory differences can present in different ways.  All of these can impact a student’s ability to attend and participate in the classroom.  This post will explore one teacher’s experience of how understanding sensory processing has helped her to better understand and support the students in her class.

Lisa’s story – Supporting Sensory at School

Sensory differences are thought to occur in between 5-16% of the population.  This means up to four students in a mainstream classroom may experience sensory differences.  As explained in our post What is SPD?, sensory differences can present in different ways.  All of these can impact a student’s ability to attend and participate in the classroom.  This post will explore one teacher’s experience of how understanding sensory processing has helped her to better understand and support the students in her class.

Our teacher – Lisa

Lisa initially trained as a journalist, but twelve years ago she started working as a teaching assistant.  She was supporting students with additional needs in mainstream schools as their one-on-one teaching assistant.  This was Lisa’s first introduction to sensory differences.  Lisa has since retrained as a teacher.  Now she works in a special school supporting students with autism.

Lisa’s introduction to sensory processing

Lisa’s initial experiences with sensory differences were confusing for her.  She’d work with children who found noises too loud, or lights too bright.  Some students would withdraw from the group. Others would become aggressive. And, some would completely retreat into themselves. Lisa did not immediately connect behaviours to sensory issues.  She wanted to learn more as she wanted to why she was seeing the behaviours.  And, she wanted to know how to help.

Understanding why she was seeing these behaviours and what was causing the behaviour became important to Lisa.  Most importantly, she wanted to know what she could do to improve the classroom for these students. She wanted to figure out how to support them to access their learning.

‘These are children who are aged between five and eight – they don’t behave “badly” for no reason.’

Lisa’s Journey

This innate drive to learn more sent Lisa on a journey.  She started to do her own research and came across sensory issues. Through books, internet and discussions with her SENSO Lisa started to become well-informed about sensory issues. Other teachers at her mainstream school also started coming to her for advice.

When she moved to a special school and met children with much more significant sensory processing needs, Lisa realised that her understanding of how sensory issues presented was not enough.  Lisa wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the children’s sensory needs. She wanted to feel better equipped to support the children she worked with, especially because the sensory issues were impacting their ability to access learning.

‘I would far rather get [my information] directly from an expert.  I like to do things that are very evidence-based. I want to know why something is happening.’

Lisa was motivated to learn more so began looking for more training.  She thought that an online course would be easier to fit around her other commitments.  It would also allow her to review the material if she needed.  After reviewing the options that were available she thought that Sensory Processing with GriffinOT was the most practical course.  She liked that there was a large section on how to use sensory strategies in the classroom.  And, she liked that there was a focus on the underlying links between sensory, learning and behaviour.

Results Speak for Themselves

After completing the course, Lisa reported she feels her knowledge is much deeper and scientific. She has made some key changes to her classroom. There’s a bank of sensory supports and makes sure all classes are autism friendly.  She has placed over-stimulating things at the back of the room where they’re outside the children’s line of sight. The lobby area has been turned into a place where children can do heavy work. And, she’s tailored her teaching and classroom management far more to the student’s sensory needs.

The training has helped her develop better relationships with the children in her class. She has learnt to read the children’s cues to create a better sensory environment for them in which they can thrive, learn, and succeed. And, she feels she is much more able to anticipate her student’s needs before they are overloaded and to help them to understand what helps them to regulate.

In turn, the children have become more aware of how to help themselves, too. They recognise what they find tricky and have the knowledge – and tools – to adapt. They begin to feel less vulnerable and more independent. Lisa makes the point that not all children are at this stage, but they are all working towards it.

‘Supporting students to understand their sensory needs, gives them ownership of themselves.’

“Understanding sensory processing makes such a difference to my understanding of my student’s behaviour and attention in class.”

Online sensory training

Overall, Lisa has found the online sensory training extremely beneficial. It has given her awareness and opened her eyes to what she needs to be looking out for in order to create the best possible environment to empower her students. She also feels it has equipped her with the knowledge to support children with sensory processing issues in a way she wasn’t able to before.

Lisa reflected that she has had much more flexibility to make the changes she has made in her special school classroom.  Some, such as using the corridor, would have been harder to implement in a mainstream school environments. However, the core understanding of sensory processing would still help teachers and teaching assistants to understand sensory behaviours of their students.  Then, they can implement the strategies which are most suitable for their school or classroom.

Lisa has already pointed several of her mainstream teaching friends to the course. In fact, she recommends it to anyone inside a school environment – even lunch time staff! When you are equipped with knowledge and have the key to starting to understand why children act a certain way, you can make sure they’re making the most out of their learning.

Where to Next?

You can read more about our online training here – Sensory Processing with GriffinOT.  There is a free introduction and longer courses for those who want to learn more.

Or, if you want to read more about sensory supports then we recommend our sensory supports page.

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