Calming and Alerting Strategies
|Did you know that there are more than just the 5 senses we're taught
about in school? We experience the world around us through our eyes
vision, ears hearing, skin touch, mouth taste, nose smell and movement.
And within these senses there are others. For example, touch includes sensing vibration
and pressure in addition to what is felt on the surface of the skin. Movement includes the
sense of balance which is detected by the inner ear and proprioception which is
detected by small sensors within our muscles and tendons.
| Over Active vs. Under Active
Some children are overly sensitive to certain sensory stimuli within the environment. This may cause the child to over
react. He or she may appear to be fearful, overly excited, agitated, restless, hyperactive, controlling or moody. On
the other hand, some children may be under sensitive to certain stimuli. This may result in a child who appears to be
children seek out intense sensory experiences. It is also possible to have a combination of responses depending on the
type and intensity of sensory stimuli.
Sometimes problems arise with too much sensory stimulation coming in at once. The child may feel bombarded with
sensations, become upset or try to tune out by shutting down. When there is too much information to sort out, some
children may have difficulty knowing what is important to focus on and what stimuli to filter out. A simple example of
this is being unable to concentrate on a task because of a squeaking noise from the air conditioner. Most of us are able
to tune this out (filtering) and it becomes background noise that we adjust to. But for those who can not filter out
irrelevant stimuli, it becomes a nagging irritant that interferes with the job to be done.
The goal of therapy is get the child to that "just right" emotional state. At home and at school there are many
strategies that are effective in getting to that "just right" state of mind.
Activities to Increase Level of Alertness
Many activities for calming also help for alerting. In addition to the above, try these:
For Teachers Use this handy help sheet for more strategies specific to the classroom:
Sensory Strategies in the Classroom
|More about Sensory Processing
sensory receptors are not properly interpreted by the brain. You may be familiar with other terms such as Sensory Integration, SI,
sensory modulation or self-regulation to name a few. However, SPD has recently become the preferred term when discussing disorders
having to do with the organization of the senses.
Let's say you're at the school gymnasium waiting for the basketball game to begin. The bleachers are loading up with people. To listen
to your friend, you're supposed to turn your body to face him and look him in the eye so he knows you're listening. It's noisy in there.
You use your ears to try to hear what he is saying. You need to use your trunk muscles to keep you sitting upright on those metal
bleachers that give you no balance support and the metal makes you feel very cold. But you're trying to ignore those sensations. You
must also ignore the scratchy annoying tag inside your shirt collar that you wish you changed out of before leaving the house. Hard to
hear your friend? You must ignore the hoards of people talking around you and the vibrations of the basketballs bouncing in the same
room. The doors to the locker rooms are open-- Whew!! That sure smells, got to ignore that, too.
Suppose your brain couldn't let you ignore all those things while attending to the task at hand-- the conversation. You may feel
bombarded with sensations to the extent that this scenario would make you irritable, frustrated, perhaps angry and anxious to escape.
And your friend is wondering "why won't you look me in the eye? Are you even listening to me? . . . "
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