Posted: 20 May, 2016
By: Annabella Sequeira
As an occupational therapist, it was essential for me to assess and determine a child’s sensory assess in order for me to provide the “just-right” environment and activities for that particular child to develop, learn and thrive in an optimal way. Therapy sessions were done in a one-on-one basis and although challenging, made it much easier to anticipate the child’s reaction to a new learning situation.
Now, imagine a classroom of 25 or more children, each with their own personalities, eccentricities, learning styles and sensory processing abilities.
Our education system is constantly changing in order to meet the needs of the children, the curriculum and the demand that is placed on schools to provide the best education possible. Different styles of teaching, various classroom sizes and curriculum changes are all impacting on the way children learn. For a child with sensory processing problems, the challenge becomes bigger, not only for the child but also for the teachers who teach the child. The reality of the situation is that there is more than one child in any given class who has such difficulties. Children with any form of learning barriers will be overwhelmed and feel lost by the challenges faced in trying to process what is happening in the classroom.
The teacher’s challenge is to be able to identify and accommodate each child in her classroom in order for the child to learn and thrive optimally in the classroom. She needs to be able to adapt her teaching style or maybe change the classroom environment to better suit the children in her classroom and to provide a better learning environment. Understanding how everyone in the classroom functions is essential for being able to deliver on the goals of the teacher, parent, school and more importantly the child.
Making a classroom optimal for learning is always challenging, so here are a few ideas to get us going:
- Lessen sensory stimulation as much as possible, by reducing posters on the walls, hanging objects and unnecessary clutter on desks
- Reduce noise levels
- Be aware of the effect that lighting and sunlight coming in through windows has on learning
- Be a calming force for the children and try to maintain a calm environment
- Understand your own sensory likes and dislikes, and how it affects your teaching styles
- Use short, direct and simple instructions
- Be consistent in dealing with behaviours in the classroom
- Use a child’s strengths to build on his weaknesses
- Build learning through constant repetition and continuity
- When it feels like it is all too much remember to “take five, take a break”