Weekly Themes

The Sensory Smart Classroom

Excerpt from the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation Winter 2011 Newsletter

by Christina Sparker, MOT, MOTR/L and Tiffany Sparks-Keeney, MOT, OTR/L

Today's savvy teachers are aware of the importance of meeting students' sensory needs in the classroom and even know various strategies to address these needs. At the same time, these teachers can often have difficulty incorporating these strategies into their every day classroom routine. In actuality, it can be very easy to integrate sensory strategies in the daily schedule. Examining a day in the class of one fictitious 1st grade teacher, who is dedicated to running a sensory smart classroom for her 25 students, reveals relatively easy ways most teachers can begin to address their students' sensory needs in the context of the classroom.

Handwriting and Its Ill Effects on Classroom Behavior

I find it ironic that the tool that is used to measure school success (for tests, quizzes, reports/compositions, math computation, etc…) gets little attention in the early years of school and less later on. The tool I am referring to is the “pencil”. 

Using a pencil well and executing the movements necessary to write with minimal effort are not the mark of most of today’s students. There are a number of reasons; I believe that the biggest culprit is that when we ask the average kindergarten student to write 3 sentences in the first semester of kindergarten we are asking something that is not neurophysiologically feasible. We don’t give 13 year olds driver’s permits for good reason and I feel expecting a child to write fluidly at age 5 or 6 is much the same. 

PRIDE Skills to Improve Relationship and Self-Esteem

A tested and proven technique for improving your relationship with your child, as well as your child's self-esteem, is to actively use the PRIDE skills.

Mouth Organizers to Improve Handwriting

Gum or hard candies help with hand writing

I'm a big fan of mouth organizers: a piece of gum. When you chew gum, you increase the synaptic activity in your brain, which is a good thing when you're learning. The oral motor center and the fine motor center are neighbors in our brain, and they like to talk a lot. This means when you chew gum while you're writing, you're actually helping coordinate the finger muscles and get them to move smoothly, which is often a problem in children with poor handwriting. So, chewing a piece of gum while writing will actually facilitate getting the writing to come out more smoothly, more accurately, and typically helps get the writing task completed faster.


Changing Behavior

I'm a firm believer that when you're trying to change a child's behavior, punishment doesn't work, and redirection isn't enough. If you want to take away a negative behavior, replace it with a positive one.

For instance, 8-year-old "Joe" has developed a pattern at night where after going to bed, he always gets out of bed to share a piece of information with his mother. She's tried scolding him, bartering with him, but nothing seems to stop. To change that behavior, we've added to the bedtime routine: every night, for the first two songs on his CD, he has to rub his "rubbing rock". Now he's focused on rubbing the rock, and spends considerably less time getting out of bed.