Children with Sensory Processing Disorder may end up attending a mainstream school. This could be for many number of reasons including the lack of availability of special schools, not meeting the criteria for special schools or just wanting them to attend a mainstream school. You may want to just send the child who has sensory difficulties to the local mainstream school so that they mix locally with their peers or you may want to consider what they will offer in terms of help and support.
Sensory Processing Disorder and Mainstream School things to consider:
I was really nervous about The Sensory Seeker starting at a mainstream school but actually I think it was the best thing for him. He is now going into year 2 and doing really well. I believe this is down to the support of the school.
- A school that cares..
For me it was very important for me (as well as my child) to know that the school would talk to me before my son attended, to help alleviate any fears. Unfortunately the primary school my other 2 boys were at did not care and said lots of negative things about my child (and my parenting). It was then that I looked for alternatives (for ALL of them).
- A school that understands.
The school that my boys moved to had a good understanding of Sensory Processing disorder and offered suggestions on how they could help. I don’t think the school needs to have previous experience (which they did) but they DO need to listen. I think this is especially important as individuals have different Sensory Diets and therefore will be affected differently.
- A school that supports.
I feel that we have been really lucky and the Head Teacher/SENCO has been really supportive. She works long & hard, knows her stuff, researches what she does not know, asks for our input, is always approachable – and found the money required for full time support as needed for our Sensory Seeker. She even has helped with suggestions to help support him out of school.
Each of the Senses and Problems in Mainstream School
Auditory – how are the classrooms laid out? Is their provision if the child needs extra noise stimulation, or somewhere quiet? Will the teachers shout? How to they handle undesirable behaviour? Will the individual be told off, or just praised for desirable behaviour?
Visual Sense – What are the displays like? Is there too much or not enough stimulation around?
Proprioception & Vestibular Sense – Is there playground equipment? Are there rules? Do the school have any gross motor skills programmes? Will they ensure the child is supported during PE lessons? Does the school have stairs? Will there be additional support with toileting and eating (not stuffing too much food into their mouth so that they choke) and/or getting food all over the place. That the right amount of stimulation is provided so that they do not appear too rough on others.
Tactile – that they have enough input through touch and are given clear rules and guidelines about touching others (without feeling that they are being told off). Help with food (again) to take into account any texture problems as they can be very particular about things touching or the sensations from the food. Help dealing with not getting covered in things (food, paint, mud etc) if a tactile sensory seeker. Also helping to develop peer relationships and explaining why the individual is standing too close/trying to touch/covering themselves in food. Will the school allow the child to bring in sensory aids such as a weighted blanket and/or chewy toy?
Olfactory – Is food cooked on the premises? Are there any other obvious smells? Can the child bring in a hankie or something else with fragrance?
Other Posts you may find of interest:
- Whether or not to send our son to school
- School Considerations when starting with Special Needs
- Way to help those with Sensory Processing Disorder at School
- The Sensory Seeker’s Experience of starting school (from a mother’s perspective)
Obviously I have written this post with my very limited experience of our own Sensory Seeker who seems to be quite mild and coping really well. I would love to hear feedback and suggestions for other parents of children with Sensory Processing Disorder in the comments below. Thank you.