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Strategies for Children Who Need Sensory Input to Stay on Task

Some children are "sensory seekers", which means frequent movement helps them to organise their behaviour and attend better to a task. Providing an environment that enables the child to remain at a calm and alert state will increase levels of alertness and concentration.

Activity suggestions which could be incorporated into routines at school (and home) are:

  • For table top activities allow the child to sit on a "move n sit" cushion or a camping pillow filled with air. This allows for movement whilst doing deskwork without leaving the chair.
  • Wiping a blackboard / whiteboard or running errands for the class teacher during lessons allows for extra movement.
  • Access to a bean bag or a rocking chair for short bursts may help a child become more focussed and ready for learning. A child may choose to sit under the beanbag for extra sensory input
  • PE / Playtimes are important and help decrease fidgeting and over-activity. Try and schedule schoolwork that requires most concentration after physical activity.
  • Provide the child with opportunities for rhythmical sustained movements (e.g. marching, jumping, bouncing) as this helps organise behaviour.
  • Access to swinging or climbing equipment is useful as these activities are often calming to over-active children
  • Providing children with extra sensory input to their hands may also help them to organise their behaviour e.g. sensory pencils / rulers, fidget toys.
  • Also sensory input through their mouths, particularly if they constantly chew things. This could be through chewing on crunchy snacks e.g. rice cakes, bread sticks, raw vegetables, fruit.
  • Special jewellery for chewing can be helpful, e.g. chewlery or chewigems.
  • Drinking from a plastic bottle kept on the desk (bottles need to be cleaned frequently and should be replaced with fresh water regularly.
  • Squeezy / spiky textured toys (e.g. koosh balls, stress balls) with a variety of textures and resistances are really useful. These should be in a box and the child can select one for fidgeting with during the lesson.
  • Vibrating toys / games
  • Pushing / pulling objects which are quite heavy for a short period of time eg a wheelbarrow, or carrying books to the library.
  • Pushing against a wall or doing chair "press-ups" (pushing down on the side of the seat with your hands to lift your body up whilst seated). Using flat hands to push against one another or pushing own hands together.
  • Tug-of-war games with ropes or straws.
  • Carrying school books in a ruck-sack
  • Games involving weight-bearing (e.g. crawling, jumping, frog-hopping, wheelbarrow walking with a partner)

Watching a child choose activities will help give parents and teachers clues as to how the child is trying to organise their behaviour and improve attention.

Try some of the suggested activities – if they work, use them; if they make no difference, try something different.

Websites for equipment:

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