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We are constantly taking in information—particularly sights, smells, and sounds-- and our Sensory Integration skills help us make sense of it all. Sensory Integration involves receiving, processing, and organizing multiple sources of sensory information and transforming this information into appropriate responses. When students struggle with Sensory Integration, sensory input can interfere with their ability to focus on reading and learning.
Students with Sensory Integration difficulties can struggle with peer relationships, participating in classroom activities, and getting adequate sleep. This can lead to difficulties with learning, including learning to read.
The threshold for processing sensory information and the response can vary:
Some basic patterns of Sensory Integration include:
Students who are sensation seeking/hyposensitive may seek out higher levels of sensory input (e.g., requiring noise to be louder, needing more light). Students who are sensation avoiding/hypersensitive may experience sensory overload, causing them to be irritable, withdraw from activities, or avoid touch. Some students may show a mixture of sensory seeking and avoidance.
Students activate more cognitive processes by exploring and representing their understandings in visual form.
Dim or natural lighting provides a calming environment.
Visiting places connected to classroom learning provides opportunities to deepen understanding through firsthand experiences.
Free play supports learner interests and allows more complex social interactions to develop.
As students walk through stations working in small groups, the social and physical nature of the learning supports deeper understanding.
Having space where students can go supports Self-regulation and individual deliberate practice.
Literacy centers with reading games, manipulatives, and activities support learner interests and promote the development of more complex reading skills and social interactions.
Providing physical representations of concepts helps activate mental processes.
Through short but regular mindfulness activities, students develop their awareness and ability to focus.
Multiple tables and chairs on wheels allow for setting up the classroom to support the desired learning outcomes of each classroom activity.
Brain breaks that include movement allow learners to refresh their thinking and focus on learning new information.
Instruction in multiple formats allows students to activate different cognitive skills to understand and remember the steps they are to take in their reading work.
Multiple display spaces promote collaboration by allowing groups to share information easily as they work.
Multiple writing surfaces promote collaboration by allowing groups to share information easily as they work.
Connecting information to music and dance moves enhances Short-term and Long-term Memory by drawing on auditory processes and the cognitive benefits of physical activity.
Research shows physical activity improves focus and creativity.
Maintaining consistent classroom routines and schedules ensures that students are able to trust and predict what will happen next.
Pretending allows students to step back from a problem or task and think about it from multiple angles.
Cards with strategies for managing emotions help students remember how to act when faced with strong feelings.
Decreasing extra audio input provides a focused learning environment.
Incorporating multiple senses with strategies like chewing gum, using a vibrating pen, and sitting on a ball chair supports focus and Attention.
Providing ways for students to adjust sound level supports individual auditory needs.
Using earplugs or headphones can increase focus and comfort.
Providing ways for students to meet their individual temperature needs supports focus and Self-Regulation.
Tossing a ball, beanbag, or other small object activates physical focus in support of mental focus.
Spaces that are structured, organized, and clean provide increased room for collaboration and active learning.
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