Do you have a child in your program who seems to always be on the go? Perhaps a child who is very tactile and has a difficult time keeping his hands to himself or seems to struggle recognizing personal boundaries. What is often seen as a lack of social skills can actually be an unmet sensory need. These children often seek out sensory experiences such as touching, stroking, hand shaking, tapping, skipping or drumming as an attempt to meet those special sensory needs.
For the child who has a high need for sensory input, it is important to reflect on your environment and consider how those sensory needs are being met. Children who demonstrate sensory seeking behavior may benefit from some of the following types of experiences and support:
- Opportunities to MOVE! All children need frequent opportunities to move their bodies in different ways throughout the day; however, it is especially critical for the child with high sensory needs to have these opportunities. Their bodies crave movement.
- Many HANDS-ON activities. The child with sensory-seeking behavior may have a more difficult time with learning experiences that allow for less movement. Large group experiences need to be limited for all children but especially children with high sensory needs. Hands-on learning is critical for the child with high sensory needs. In situations that are less hands-on, providing a small object or material to manipulate, may help a child who has high sensory needs focus.
- Help the child better understand PERSONAL SPACE. For a child with sensory seeking behaviors, being in close proximity to another child often invites touch. Consider visual cues, such as a carpet square during group time, to help the child better understand personal space.
Teachers and family members who find creative ways to meet a child’s needs for sensory input show children that they are respected and valued. And children learn how to use the same strategies to be more successful as they grow and learn.
As a former teacher, I also found the following books by Carol Kranowitz helpful:
The Out-of Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder
The Out-of Sync Child Has Fun, Revised Edition: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder