Sensory difficulties may have a dramatic effect on behaviour. Keeping an eye to see how they react to sensory stimuli – e.g. do they seek certain stimuli, or do they react negatively to it can be a good way to become a ‘sensory detective’ and identify which senses the students are seeking or avoiding.
There are 8 senses:
- Auditory system- the sense of hearing
- Olfactory system- the sense of hearing
- Gustatory system- the sense of taste
- Tactile system- the sense of touch
- Vestibular system- the feeling of our head in space (movement and balance)
- Proprioceptive system- the feeling of our muscles and joints (body awareness)
- Interoception- what's going on inside your body
Each of the 8 senses may become over-sensitive (hyper-) or under-sensitive (hypo-) to stimulus, e.g. a student who is hyper-sensitive to light may turn the lights off in class; conversely a student who is hypo-sensitive to light may turn all the lights on (this can be a difficult situation if both students are in the same room!).
The newest of the senses is Interoception: this is a fairly new are for discussion in sensory integration; interoception is how our body tells our brain what is going on inside our body, when we are hungry or feel full, when our heart is beating fast of when we have that sensation of butterflies in the stomach.
Sensory Lifestyles are based on the Child’s individual sensory needs and how the child responds and reacts to sensory input. These ‘lifestyles’ are to support and encourage body awareness, position and balance and the child’s ability to regulate and manage reactions to sensory input. making transitions from one situation to another less difficult.
At Marlborough School we offer a sensory lifestyle in which all students are assessed using the Sensory Profile Companion (Winnie Dunn PhD, OTR, FAOTA) standardized assessment tool for measuring the students sensory processing abilities.
Students begin the year with an assessment by the Occupational Therapist and a profile is developed in collaboration with the supporting staff. If required a Sensory programme will be established to provide opportunities for the child to experience a variety of controlled sensory input, which will help and support their response to different challenges in their environment.
Progress is monitored over the term and the profile is amended as necessary which informs the programme and/or lifestyle to ensure continuous meeting of the child’s complex sensory needs.
Resources and equipment that students may use as part of their sensory lifestyle include:
A bird nest swing, a spinner, a rocker, chewy tubes, sensory chew toys, Ark Z vibes, crunchy and chewy snacks, protac vests, weighted blankets, weighted wrist straps or ankle weights, bear hugs, Hokki stools, ball chairs, sit and move cushions, wedge cushions and therapy balls, deep pressure and massage, fidget toys, therapeutic listening, therapeutic brushing, ear defenders.
A sensory circuit is sensory–motor activity programme which helps students achieve the ‘ready to learn’ state. Children with sensory integration difficulties often struggle to engage effectively with the physical, social, emotional and curricular challenges of the school day. Behavioural clues such as fidgeting, poor concentration, excessive physical contact or overall lethargy can indicate that a child is not fully available for learning.
Sensory Circuits are a fantastic programme of physical activities that provide regular and controlled input to our sensory-motor systems enabling children to be energised or calmed so that they can get the most out their day.
The sensory circuit has a specific structure which includes ‘Alerting’ ‘Organising’ and ‘Calming’ activities, which the students complete in a structured order. At Marlborough we have a circuit which is set up daily in two parts of the school which students use when they first arrive at school, but also that they can access throughout the day if needed.