How Can Schools Be More Supportive? 

I asked parents, how schools could support them and their child better and the list had so many great ideas to help teachers and schools better support children who have Sensory Processing Disorder. 

Many professionals, including school professionals do not know about Sensory Processing Disorder or the needs of our children. 

I think the best people to ask how schools and teachers can improve would be parents who have children with Sensory processing Disorder. 

These are the suggestions from parents. 

1. I think one of the most important things is education. Making sure teachers have Sensory Processing Disorder  awareness training, so they better understand the needs and behaviors.

2. Awareness is HUGE!! Teachers know a lot about Autism, ADHD, etc., but very little about Sensory Processing Disorder. Sensory differences play a huge roll in not just Sensory Processing Disorder, but many other neurological conditions too.

3. Incorporate sensory breaks into all classrooms, so our kids don't have to leave for them. All kids can benefit from them.  

4. They need to care more. My husband, an educator, always says a child does not care how much you know until they know how much you care.

5. I have found that once told of his 
Sensory Processing Disorder  it is all they talk about. The focus has left him, as an individual, and put on his Sensory Processing Disorder  He is a gifted learner, smart as a whip, but all I hear about is what his Sensory Processing Disorder  limits him from. No mention of his accomplishments or very little.

6. Sometimes school uniforms need to be adjusted to needs.

7. OT support at school.

8. I wish every classroom had a small tent for a cool-down area... It would help for when he gets over-stimulated.

9. When he complains about being picked on or bothered listen and address it. Stop saying you're in middle school and just need to deal with it. Luckily, the assistant principle happened to walk in the other day and caught someone in the act.

10. More awareness and specialized training sessions.

11. Actually following the IEP and sensory diet.

12. I wish they would take more time to teach the kids how to learn instead of just telling me I have to do more at home! Adjusting curriculum for kids falling behind, instead of never revisiting the things they haven't grasped yet. OT at school would help a lot!

13. Education awareness, 
Sensory Processing Disorder  breaks for kids who have to, and hands off kids who have meltdowns. Stop looking at it as a spoiled child having temper tantrum. Stop removing them physically or restraining them. Talk calmly to the child.

14. More breaks, more time for kids to run around, and be active.

15. Movement in the classroom.

16. Make sure the staff is aware of individual needs of our children.

17. I believe that they need to educate and re-educate teachers and staff. There are so many new diagnosis that they aren't even aware of. I know when I went to school for elementary education we were given very little, if any, information on the different problems that children can have. They mentioned ADD/ ADHD, but that was about it. Granted I went to college many years ago.

18. Encourage my child to want to go to school not discourage.

19. Educate the teachers on one seems to understand.

20. I'd be happy if the schools would just take the time to learn EXACTLY what 
Sensory Processing Disorder  is, or if they could accept that not every kid with special needs in school is an ADHD kid. 

21. Awareness & understanding. Accept there is a problem with the pupil and don't just put it down to bad behavior or having a bad day. Just, because they are having a good day doesn't mean the child doesn't have Sensory Processing Disorder!

22. The teachers at my son's school encourage the other children to call him silly when he screams. I'd like teachers to instead see that as an opportunity to teach the kids a life skill like tolerance of other people's differences.

23. Understanding what 'sensory' means! My son's teacher thinks she is helping by having a sensory approach to learning. Says oh we do sensory all day, like messy hands and doing hand painting. Great if the child is tactile, but she thought that would suffice for full sensory diet.

24. More staff and teachers' aides.

25. It's so hard to get them to understand his Tourette's let alone his 
Sensory Processing Disorder  and other comorbid. It is constantly explaining to them that all things effect the other.

26. Smaller class size, creating environments where kids with different sensory profiles feel safe and understood, and flexibility with different types of learners.

27. It's helpful when educators are able to distinguish between sensory issues and behavior issues.

28. CAMERAS in classes, on buses, and in playground areas.

29. Awareness, OT available, let kids learn through play and have breaks... not only do our 
Sensory Processing Disorder  kids need to play but NT kids do too.

30. Hire someone who understands or train staff in 
Sensory Processing Disorder, so they can better understand and help our children.

31. Sensory breaks, including sensory based activities into curriculum, because every kid can benefit from adding sensory to their diet.

32. Movement breaks. The whole classroom could participate. We expect young children to sit still and focus for longer than we should expect them to from a developmental standpoint.

33. Less visual clutter

34. Visual/written schedules that are plainly posted.  Playground monitors that actually facilitate group games and play, so that peer interactions are observed and inclusion is encouraged. It would cut down on bullying. Better communication between school and home.

35. Address the alienation the kids with 
Sensory Processing Disorder  feel. Talk to the class about how things that they might find annoying or "weird" about another child, might be those things that the child struggles with and can't control. To be tolerant and inclusive. Let kids know that there is such a thing as Sensory Processing Disorder, maybe they wouldn't be so mean to the kids with it if they understood a little bit.

36. Train every teacher to recognize that children with special needs to be treated individually and not as a statistic and also not be singled out and labeled a problem child. Patience is all it takes.

37. I think that it just needs to be taught to people in general. Sensory overload can look a lot like bad behavior. Schools also need someone on staff who knows how to handle it (as the teacher is trying to focus on the class as a whole). You call the behavior intervention guy and the OT comes attached to his hip.

38. For starters, teachers need more training!! The process to obtain an IEP should be sped up/shortened. It takes a whole school year just to have the child evaluated and the IEP developed. In the meantime, the child suffers through the school year not getting the help he/she needs.

39. Stop trying to shove them into the next grade when they are OBVIOUSLY not ready.

40. My son's school has a wonderful nurse that we go directly to on tough mornings. We basically get there early to give him pep talks, and he can go to her to give himself a breather if he needs it. She has a daughter with similar idiosyncrasies, so she gets it.

41. First, take all the crazy crap off the walls! That drives my kiddo nuts. Have some obvious organization (think OCD) among the different "stations" in the room. Have headphones on all the computers. Most importantly, have someone who specializes in disorders like the ones our kids have come in to train the teachers, paras, admin, everyone.

42. Give them work they understand.

43. Don't give our children school work that is too easy year after year, because you don't believe they are capable.

44. Use yoga balls for seating.

45. Know the difference between not wanting too, not understanding too, not feeling comfortable too, and not being able too.

46. I'd like them to take his sensory needs seriously, that he be given sensory breaks, and also they should do away with homework!!!!!! Most of his meltdowns & being overwhelmed has to do with getting frustrated with homework!!! As I've read in other comments it would be very good to educate the class about sensory issues & add sensory activities for all children.

47. Schools should have OTs with post-graduate and specialized qualifications for dealing with Sensory Processing Disorder. Schools could help with better choice of lighting - the florescent flicker and hum, giving two almost painful distractions. They could also have more sound absorbing material in classrooms and less displayed art and craft.

48. Less waiting lists to see a school district OT, a year to two years is too long.

49. Allow him to use the sensory room for not just sensory overload, but for anxiety issues as well, but they don't allow him to go at all.

50. Stop making excuses and simply TRY!

51. I think the school needs to first recognize that Sensory Processing Disorder  exists and greatly affects how children learn. This is a huge step that a lot of districts just don't take. Education from teacher right on down to assistants and support staff.

52. Movement! More creativity! Less homework.

53. Teach them in a way they can learn.

54. Understanding! One word, but unfortunately it's in very short supply.

55. Don't make it so difficult for our children to have an IEP.

56. Let's start with educating staff on 
Sensory Processing Disorder  and what our kids are trying to tell them through their behaviors!

57. Learn about sensory overload and the human senses.

58. Alienation, bullying, and not to be given the excuse they're just kids. Yes, they might be just be kids, but what does that have to do with politeness, compassion, and decency.

59. Our children do not need to be in solitary confinement rooms at school, this makes everything worse for them.

60. Train the staff on all of the new diagnoses. There are so many things that they need to understand and are not taught about in school or during student teaching.

61. When Chase was in school every class he was ever in was located in the basement of the school. It always smelled like mildew and mold and he stayed sick. Why do they have to put them in the basement? Is that really appropriate?

62. My son's school needs to inform all of his teachers about his sensory and transition issues. He frequently gets punished for not finishing his work and having meltdowns in class, because it's going so fast. We were called by his art teacher, because he completely shut down in her class, wouldn't listen to her, and had a massive meltdown, because he wasn't ready to clean up when it was time. None of the teachers besides his home room address any of his sensory needs and provide him with assistance when he needs it.

63. Patience first of all. My son started preschool, that's when we realized that he has Sensory Processing Disorder , ADD, and speech delay. Thru the process of IEP meetings his teachers was always complaining. Like give me a break. She knew he has the disorder... So he started the new school and he loves it. The teachers say hi to him and he runs and hugs them. Something impossible sense he gets social anxiety. I mean this new school the teachers actually know about it and even had a print out of examples of what Sensory Processing Disorder  is. I was really amazed. I'm not too fond of the area where it's located, but my son is happy and in 3 weeks is being very verbal and more in tune with everything.

64. Accommodations!!!

65. Dimming the lights for a more comfortable setting.

66. Understanding that 
Sensory Processing Disorder  is real, & it affects many different areas in his life. It's NOT just the ADHD, & ASD.

67. Follow the sensory diet that was tailored to help him by his private therapist rather than scrapping it completely and doing their own. There are some GREAT things being tried, but it's not often enough or the sensory input he NEEDS when he needs it.

68. For schools to have more training on it. I worked in a special education classroom, have a background in special education, and had never heard of 
Sensory Processing Disorder  until my friend found out her son had it.

69. I wish my school would allow my boy to let out the energy as I suggested. She said it is not feasible for him to do jumping jacks or run in place right outside of the hallway. He needs to move.

70. Listen to their parents!!

71. Understand that parents know their child better.

72. Sensory breaks, plus extra if/when needed. Have a quiet place in the school a child can go to calm down. Make sure the room has some sensory items in it for children to use--trampoline, swing, cushions to crash into, etc.

73. That they understand 
Sensory Processing Disorder  and not just say they are defiant.....

74. Training in recognizing sensory issues, triggers, and remedies. My daughter's school refuses to recognize that she has Sensory Processing Disorder ... even though she was diagnosed by the psych THEY sent her to. She eats paper, chews on books, stims in class, etc. Her first teacher in first grade gave them a "get out of homework free" pass for each month. For sensory kids (esp. in younger grades) I think 1 per week would be better.

75. Compassion.

76. For staff to take it more seriously, sensory breaks, and staff needs more training on how and what to do with our angels who are 
Sensory Processing Disorder , Autistic, ADHD, ADD, and Asperger's etc. Cameras throughout the school not just class rooms.

77. Sensory breaks... They say they try to get them for him, but due to staffing it doesn't happen.

78. Teacher training, many of the things that help my son actually are great tools for the class as a whole, but requires the teachers to think outside the box to implement change.

79. Understand that accommodations are just that. Behaviors might change daily. Train staff to recognize triggers.

80. More one on one teaching, more patience & understanding, and better trained staff. I could go on and on. My son hates school and never wants to go. He finds it boring, loud, and exhausting.

81. Visual learning for those who visually learn.

82. Have them start at 9 and finish by 2 or 1:30 to try and relieve some anxiety about being there all day. Try and appoint a mentor to guide them around the school and have them sit next to and help with others.

83. I think more teachers need training in that area and on how to deal with a child who is having a sensory issue.

84. Schools need to start recognizing children with special needs when they are diagnosed by a doctor. They are not doctors they are school board employees. They are not qualified to override a doctor. Stick to your kind of work. Do not make it any harder for the family when trying to get the child in school.

85. Don't expect them all to be "cookie cutter" kids... Allow them their OWN visions, quirks (as long as not hurting others). STOP expecting perfection!!

86. Better education, especially for the OT and better communication between the OT and classroom teachers about 
Sensory Processing Disorder  and how to work with it.

87. Less distractions by peers.

88. Don't grade them based on how they "get along with others" is a start.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists give you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional.

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