August 20, 2013
Imagine taking a math test while wearing 3-D glasses, sitting on a bean-filled plastic bag, in a classroom filling up with bubbles. You use crayons to answer the questions, while the teacher and her assistant walk around the room, one banging a tin can and the other rattling a tambourine.
Every now and then they tickle you with feathers, drag a bottle brush across your forearm, and spray you with a light stream of water, all while permeating your space with a stinky chunk of limburger cheese.
Welcome to the world of children with Sensory Processing Disorders.
Training the Trainers
In an effort to educate educators about what it’s like to be among the estimated one in 20 students easily overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) by sensory inputs, the South Michigan group Parent to Parent travels the area putting groups of educators through this exercise.
How do educators do? Most flunk the grade-school test. According to an article in the BattleCreekEnquirer.com, those who participated in the Traveling Sensory Classroom at the Calhoun Great Start Collaborative, “expressed frustration at the annoyances. One educator said he just shut down during the onslaught, while another said she was red-hot with anger.”
Jayne Weaver, a Parent-to-Parent trainer and grandparent to a child with autism, explained that during an overload, a child with a sensory disorder is likely to “become anxious and act out. Oftentimes kids will get in trouble for that.”
Weaver provided the group with several techniques to address these issues, which she suggests all children could benefit from—not just those with sensory processing issues:
She told the educators they could help students by remaining calm, whispering in their ear to force them to focus on their voice, and providing reassurance.
She showed them tools they could use, such as a pen that lights up when the right amount of pressure is used during writing, which would help kids who struggle with motor skills because of the disorder.
But, she cautioned, “There’s no magic answer to help the kids that are struggling. Every kid is unique and what works for this kid might not work for that kid.”