Creating a Sensory Friendly Classroom for All Learners

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Creating a Sensory Friendly Classroom for All Learners

Every learner learns differently, and some learners experience the world around them in a more intense way than others. This can be due to sensory processing disorder (SPD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or simply individual variations in how the brain processes sensory information.  Let’s explore these conditions and how you can create a more inclusive and supportive learning environment for all your students.

Understanding Sensory Processing

Imagine a classroom buzzing with activity.  For some students, this might be a stimulating and engaging environment. But for others, the sights, sounds, smells, and textures can be overwhelming. This is where sensory processing comes in. It's the way our brains receive and interpret information from our senses. Learners with SPD may have difficulty processing this information, leading to a variety of responses.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder? 

  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD):  Learners with SPD may find certain sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or touches overwhelming or unpleasant. They may be overly sensitive to some stimuli or crave more than others.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):  Many autistic leaners experience sensory processing difficulties.  They may also have social communication challenges and restricted interests.

It's important to remember that these conditions exist on a spectrum, and each learner will have their own unique sensory profile.

The Connection Between SPD and Autism

While not everyone with autism has SPD, a significant portion (over 80%) do experience sensory processing difficulties.  This can make the classroom environment overwhelming and lead to challenging behaviours.

The Importance of a Dimensional Approach

The traditional view of autism and SPD often categorised them as binary conditions. Thankfully, we're moving towards a more nuanced understanding.  Think of it like a mixing desk with dials for sound, light, touch, and more. Each learner will have their dials set to different volumes, creating a unique sensory profile.  This dimensional approach allows us to tailor our teaching strategies to each student's specific needs.

Creating a Sensory-Friendly Classroom

Here are some tips to create a sanctuary for all learners in your SEN classroom:

  • Visual Comfort: Diffuse bright lights and offer areas with lower lighting for students who need a break. Consider using visual schedules and timers to help students anticipate transitions.
  • Minimise Clutter: Too much clutter can be overwhelming. Declutter surfaces, organise materials, and create clear pathways for a sense of calm.
  • Auditory Adjustments:  Provide noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs for students who are sensitive to sounds. You can also create designated quiet zones in the classroom.
  • Embrace Calming Colours: Studies show certain colours promote relaxation. Consider calming blues, greens, or lavenders for walls and accents.
  • Keep Things Organised: Create predictable routines! Use clear visuals, schedules, and designated areas for activities to reduce anxiety and promote focus.
  • Tactile Exploration:  Offer fidget toys, sensory bins, and chewy necklaces for students who seek sensory input.  Be mindful of textures and allow students choices when it comes to clothing and materials.
  • Movement Matters:  Integrate movement breaks throughout the day.  Stretching exercises, short walks outside, or even a mini dance party can help students refocus and release built-up energy.
  • Sensory Zones: Create designated areas for sensory needs. Include a "calm corner" with soft seating, dim lighting, and calming textures. Or go the whole hog and have a sensory room.

Here’s where we can help!

We have a fantastic collection of sensory resources for you to support your students with different sensory processing needs. From noise-cancelling headphones and dark dens to specialised sensory software such as Inclusive Stories by HelpKidzLearn. These tools can help students manage sensory input and stay focused on learning.

Our Best-Selling Sensory Superstars

Our best-selling products suitable for sensory processing needs that will have them engaged, entertained, and learning in no time!

Different Textures Sensory Bags

These handy bags offer a variety of textures to explore, perfect for tactile learners who crave sensory input.

Small Bubble Tube

Our customers love these calming bubbles and colourful fish with this compact bubble tube. It's a mesmerising addition to any sensory room.

Dark Den Resources Kit One

A carefully selected kit of bright, colourful, tactile, light-up sensory resources to use within a sensory environment such as a room or Dark Den.

Pop & Play Fidget Kit

A brightly coloured and fun interactive kit that develops motor skills whilst keeping fingers and minds busy in the classroom, at home or out and about.

Tactile Sensory Bag

Tactile resources for your learners to get their hands on - from Goohey Mesh Balls to Squidgy Fish there’s lots of fun at their fingertips.

View Our Complete Sensory Technology Range

We offer a wide range of sensory products to enhance your sensory environments.

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Remember: Every learner is unique. By understanding sensory processing and its connection to autism, we can create classrooms that support all learners and empower them to reach their full potential.