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Managing School Days

How to Promote Calming

Sensory modulation requires a child to adapt his or her state of arousal, alertness, and attention to meet the demands of each environment in which he or she needs to function.  Children need to read cues accurately and respond to them appropriately. Sensory modulation is strongly affected by sensitivity and response patterns to sensory input. Children who over or under respond to sensory input often have difficulty regulating their behavior. A well-regulated child will go through most of his or her day in a quiet, alert state without being distracted or inattentive and transition smoothly between active and table-top activities.

“When in Doubt. . . .Prop it Out” -Meryl Samuels Turner, ASD Nest Program, NY DOE

 One of the most effective ways to promote self-regulation is through proprioceptive input. Heavy work/resistive activities that also provide some movement through space (vestibular) are “grounding” and organizing.

For Home:

  • Slow stretches or yoga poses

  • Bear hugs

  • After the bath dry off with a large towel and follow up with a massage

  • Create a tunnel out of your legs and have your child squeeze through

  • Wheelbarrow, crab, or bear walk

  • “Wrestle with rules”

  • Chewy foods for snack and lunch (bagels, granola bars, gum)

  • Drink thick liquids (yogurt, mild shake) through a straw

  • Chew gum

For the Classroom:

  • Chair push-ups

  • Make the room bigger (wall “push-ups”)

  • Erase the board

  • Move the furniture

  • Wear a weighted back pack (appropriate to the size/weight of the child), or lap pad

  • The “Fragile Egg”

  • Sports top water bottle

  • Stretchy band on chair legs

  • Squeezy ball fidget toy

How to Facilitate Alerting

Providing targeted sensory input in the correct “dosage” is the key to promoting alertness and ramping up attention.  Before circle time, a lesson, or homework provide alerting input (intense, arrhythmic, unpredictable, variable) in an organized manner.  The time spent will be worth it.

For Home:

  • Eat crunchy snacks such as pretzels, apples, carrots, or nuts

  • Sit on a large exercise ball or inflatable cushion rather than a chair (note: feet must rest on the floor)

  • 2-3 minute intense workout, for example:

  1. Stride jumps

  2. Jumping jacks

  3. Jumping on a trampoline

  4. Cartwheels and summersaults (upside down is alerting)

For The Classroom:

 Basic Principles:

  • Instructions should be simple; use as few words as possible

  • All activities should have a clear, unambiguous beginning and end

  • Children thrive on routine

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