How to manage your child’s sensory needs at home or in the class

When you visit an Autism therapy centre, Autism pre-school, Autism ECD centre or Autism specialist in South Africa you will notice similar classroom lay-outs and/or visuals.  

At specialist schools for children with autism spectrum disorder, schools for ADHD or remedial schools for children with sensory integration disorder children get the help that they need throughout the day.  

Remediation or sensory integration therapists and special educators help by allowing the children in their care – to have breaks during the day.  Schedules are set up to include active time, sensory stimulation and regulation times.  Fidget toys and special sensory furniture can also be found in many classrooms.  

As a parent that is home schooling your autistic child or if you are following a distance learning curriculum for your ADHD child – you are in most cases going to have sensory integration challenges in your home school classroom.

Knowing this before you start your journey will help make the actual teaching so much easier.  Here are a few tips on how to set up your classroom and also on how to manage your child’s sensory needs:

  • Choose a small space to teach in;
  • Make sure the room is not cluttered in any way; use the “LESS IS MORE’ concept;
  • Paint the room in pastel, soft colours;
  • Remove visual stimuli like pictures from the walls and design the room to look and feel like an actual classroom with an appropriate desk and comfortable chairs;
  • We recommend cupboards not shelves because “things” or shelves can be very distracting and for many a total sensory overload;
  • Make sure all toys and fun distractions are behind closed doors because they could become a distraction from both a sensory perspective but also from a “distraction in ADHD” perspective;
  • Get organised and make sure that you have all your learning materials good and ready to go;
  • Remove anything that has artificial light or make a buzzing noise like fan’s or florescent lights;
  • Plan a sensory curriculum also known as a visual curriculum and tactile curriculum.

Once you have the physical space set up plan your learning schedule and make sure to:

  • Allow for sensory breaks during the learning day;
  • Plan learning around external noise factors such as the gardener mowing the lawn or the house being vacuumed.  
  • Be aware off environment noise at all time and give your child headphones if you can see that he/she is not coping with the input or stimuli;
  • You can investigate bouncy chairs for children that require movement input.  They have been known to be very helpful in the classroom environment;
  • Consult with your occupational sensory integration therapist on the implementation of weighted vests or lap-pads.
  • Implement a good sensory diet.  Some children will need to get breaks for active time, such as a walk around the garden or some heavy lifting may be required.  

Amazing `k is here to help – we offer a wide range of training workshop’s as well as face-to-face and distance (zoom) support session.  Send us your questions and we will be happy to help wherever we can.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.