Is your kids’ school reopening? Continuing with distance learning? Is your child receiving virtual therapy sessions or other services? If your child has ADHD, autism, or a sensory processing disorder, then many of the services and tools they may need might have been accessible only at school. Some studies have shown that virtual learning is not as effective for many children with sensory processing or learning difficulties.
Educators, therapists, and parents are all struggling with the same questions. How do we ensure that our kids receive the proper help and attention that they need in order to improve their skills and grow in a positive way?
Having access to the right tools is going to be key for navigating these uncertainties moving forward. With increasing regulations to reduce possible transmission of the virus, many schools are putting an end to shared equipment in classrooms. Additionally, if there is a need to return to distance learning because of an increase in community cases of Covid-19, many families don’t own the sensory tools that are crucial to their kids being able to self-regulate and focus throughout the school day. Often occupational therapists bring their own equipment to sessions, something that becomes impossible to provide during a virtual appointment.
Instead of relying on communal sensory solutions, children should be prepared with their own set of tools. An individual kit is valuable so that they can provide the stimulation and input that they need, when they need it. Studies are showing a rise in the sensory needs of typically developing children as well, a consequence of the current pandemic environment.
With the rise in sensory needs and the decrease in accessibility to tools, it’s more important than ever to prepare each child with the solutions they can use on the go, no matter what ends up happening this school year. We recommend a sensory Travel Kit for each student, full of transportable tools that can be easily wiped clean and disinfected throughout the day. Each Travel Kit includes a Weighted Lap Pad, Noise Reduction Headphones, Robot Chewy, and Super Calming Fidget. Read on for ways to use these tools to your child’s advantage!
If You’re a School Teacher
While you may be accustomed to having a supply of various sensory tools for students to take when needed during the day or different communal sensory activities for your class, you can still do many similar things with the individual sensory kits.
At the beginning of the year, review various ways and times for students to use the tools they have at hand. Weighted lap pads are perfect to pull out if they are feeling anxious or stressed. If they’re feeling antsy (especially possible if your school is keeping students in the same room all day), then the Super Calming Fidget will provide the tactile stimulation they are seeking without disrupting the class. You can turn this “no sharing” situation into a great exercise in self-regulation!
If You’re an OTR, SLP, or Other Service Provider
A therapist can suggest the use of a weighted lap pad during virtual therapy sessions to help a child sit and focus on the lesson and activity being presented. Laying the pad on the lap or having the child lay on his stomach with the pad on his back provide deep pressure that recenter the child’s attention. Draping it across the shoulders while sitting encourages good posture, which helps improve handwriting and attention during written tasks. The fidget is a great wake-up exercise for hand muscles before practicing handwriting as well.
Educate and train the child and parents on when is a good time to use the noise reduction headphones. This might be during homework time or after activities are done for the day and the child needs a break from overstimulation. Make sure to create a system to track if and when the headphones are effective, so that they can most benefit the child.
Children with sensory processing disorders often exhibit inappropriate seeking behaviors with their mouths, such as chewing on their pencil or other nonedible items during therapy sessions. Incorporate the Robot Chewy as a replacement. It provides the necessary oral stimulation to help kids focus and regulate, as well as teaches them what are appropriate items to put in their mouths.
If You’re a Parent
Learning and participating in classes from home can be extremely distracting. Even the simple change in scenery can cause kids to have a hard time focusing on lessons and homework. On top of that, you may have other children attending virtual school and may be working from home now yourself. Unlike in the typical classroom setting, where an entire class is listening to a teacher or working on an assignment, thus creating a pretty quiet environment, home has many different noises.
The Noise Reduction Headphones included in the sensory travel kit provide just the right amount of quiet for kids to bring their attention back to their schoolwork. These headphones block much of the ambient noise, while still allowing them to hear someone speaking to them from nearby. An over-the-ear design blocks more noise and is more comfortable for those uncomfortable with the sensation of having something directly in their ear.
Your child will be able to work in peace if they’re doing distance learning. The headphones are also a great tool to utilize while traveling, in a noisy and crowded environment, or even in school if they need a bit of extra quiet to focus.