Part of establishing an environment that is accessible to the way in which everyone learns and functions, is ensuring that sensory support is in place.
What do we mean by sensory support?
Often when we talk about sensory support we are referring to the equipment, resources and strategies that support the way in which people process the world through their senses. Sensory support usually aims to either provide people with the ‘input’ that their bodies need or reduce the impact of ‘sensory assault’ on their bodies so that they can function at their best.
We commonly think of the five senses that are typically known – sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. But it’s also important to consider the senses of movement and balance.
A common problem that we hear, is that of how to support a person who is always ‘on the go’ and who never seems to be able to sit still or focus on a task. Some typical scenarios might be:
* the child who won’t sit on the mat during group time at preschool or school
* the teenager at school who is constantly moving out of their seat during class (or perhaps constantly swinging on their chair or seemingly ‘bouncing’ out of their chair)
* the adult who can’t stay still to complete a task (and who perhaps becomes frustrated or agitated when expected to)
These may well be typical cases of people who need more movement in their everyday activities – and by having their sensory need for more movement supported, they may then be better placed to function at their best.
So here are some ideas to support those who have the sensory need for movement:
* use exercise balls at desks instead of chairs (which allows for movement whilst sitting)
* give a person 15 or 20 minutes of intense running or jumping before you ask them to sit for a period of time – then repeat this as necessary (this time of intense activity may need to be longer, depending on the individual needs of the person)
* allow students to read or do other sedentary learning activities whilst pedaling on an exercise bike
* have regular physical movement breaks built in to daily schedules
* provide inflatable cushions (some people even suggest hot water bottles) for people to sit on or to have underneath feet that need to constantly move
The more we understand and provide for the sensory needs of the people we support, the better able and equipped they will be to achieve success. And we ALL deserve success!
How do you provide for the sensory needs of the people you support?
We’d love to hear your comments!