Back to school can be challenging for anyone. There are new teachers, more structure than the summer, new schedules, new peers and just an overall adjustment and transition. I think back to school can be even challenging for teachers and staff as well as parents.
For individuals with sensory processing challenges, all the change can throw their nervous system into either high alert or total shut down. You may see an upswing in response from a sensory seeking child, over reaction from an over responsive child and perhaps a disorientation from an under responsive child. But let’s take a look at strategies that might help students transition more easily and handle the new school year with confidence, promise and hope.
- An Ounce of Preparation. It’s like going on a trip. You must prepare. Going back to school is more than a trip to the store for school supplies. It involves thinking and planning. You might like to start with a scheduled meeting (and it’s not too late) with your child’s administrator or teacher(s). Let’s get everyone on the team on the same page. If your school is sensory savvy, great! If not, you might like to introduce them to an Active Mind approach.
If you missed a summer meeting, then go ahead and schedule one for a week or so after school starts. Your teacher will have a better understanding of your child, and your suggestions or concerns may be heard better. In fact, you may end up helping other students in the school too, as you can see in our Activity Guide.
Have you visited the school or new classroom with your child? Does your child have a Sensory Survival Kit? What about some sensory savvy clothing? Do they need a ball chair or wiggle cushion for school? Don’t worry. It’s never too late to obtain these items and they can make a world of difference.
- Early Morning Moves. Before the brain, comes the body. It needs a wake-up call every morning and, if you have a sensory sensitive child, then a motor sensory diet needs to be part of the morning routine. This can include morning stretches, swinging, an indoor obstacle course, a few minutes of catch or eye hand coordination, a household chore or walking or biking to school. Any of the suggested activities will wake up a sensory system and the body-mind connection for a satisfying day at school.
- School Daze. Does your school offer a sensory room, or sensory break? If your child needs one, then be sure that it is scheduled as part of your child’s day. If your school does not have a sensory space, perhaps a Break Box can be purchased for your child’s classroom. But either way, take a look at your child’s schedule to ensure it can accommodate your child’s sensory system. Teaching children to adapt is part of growing up, but advocating for a better learning experience is part of the lesson as well.
- Afternoon Sensations. It’s 4 pm and your child is done. Done. Done. Done. And you know homework, dinner and bedtime routine still lie in the hours ahead. What to do? How about a sensory space or tent for your child so they can decompress and re-energize after school? And don’t be surprised if you find yourself sneaking into this oasis once in a while too. It’s a great place to relax, read, re-energize or even take a good nap. You can have a calming swing, weighted blanket, cozy canoe and a bubble tube for example, and choose options to personalize the space for your needs.
- Organizational Evenings. Bedtime already? Not so fast. Make sure your evenings allot time to organize the mind, body and books for the next day. A few extra evening minutes can mean an easier morning and day. Make sure lunches, schedules, homework and backpacks are all in order. Encourage your child (if age appropriate) to set clothes out. Then once hygiene is addressed, grab a weighted pal, blanket or lap pad and snuggle up to a good book. Forgo the electronics and you’re sure to have a relaxed mind and restful night sleep to prepare for a better school day.
So, ready for the challenge? Here’s to a great school year. Let your kids know that we are counting on them to be their best today, tomorrow and into the future. We believe in their potential and leadership – and behind every great leader are some very dedicated parents and teachers.