Homeschooling kids with sensory needs can be challenging. These kids are often easily distracted by noises, tactile defensiveness, and their need for movement among other things. But there are many things you can do to help kids with sensory needs learn at home!
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Tips for Homeschooling Kids with Sensory Needs
While we haven’t been officially homeschooling for very long, I’ve learned so much about what works for my son with sensory needs and what does not in the past few weeks that I wanted to share these 10 tips for homeschooling kids with sensory needs.
Disclaimer: We are under the care of an occupational therapist to treat my son’s Sensory Processing Disorder. Many of these tips came from her. If your child has SPD or you suspect your child has sensory needs, I urge you to seek treatment from a recommended pediatric OT.
Tip Number 1 – Routine, routine, routine!
I can’t say this enough, you have to stick to a routine. Even if that means homeschooling on the weekends and during vacations! If it is too difficult for your sensory needs child to get back to schoolwork after a short break then you’ve got to keep it going!
Tip Number 2– Start your day with plenty of movement & exercise BEFORE seat work.
I’ve noticed my son has a much easier time getting his work done if he gets his wiggles out first through good proprioceptive movement and exercise followed by a calming activity. We have a routine that includes jumping on the indoor trampoline then, throwing and catching a ball.
Tip Number 3– Take lots of breaks between seat work for movement and play.
When I notice my son is having a hard time sitting to do his work, we take a break to run some laps or jump on the trampoline. He also takes brain breaks between subjects.
Tip Number 4 – Sit in a stable seat & remove distractions.
We’ve found it super helpful to do seat work at the dining room table. The dining room in our home is empty of distractions such as toys and the television. Caden sits in a chair with a booster which helps define the space and keep his bum in the seat. It also gives him extra support for proper posture which is important for writing.
Tip Number 5– Make time to play & explore outside.
I make sure at least one of the breaks we take during the day gets us outside to run around, play and explore. Getting some fresh air and sunshine helps us reset!
Tip Number 6– Take schoolwork outside!
On particularly hard mornings we take our work outside! There is something about the fresh air and change of scenery that calms my son down and helps him focus.
Tip Number 7– Plan short lessons.
Planning short lessons a la Charlotte Mason with an end in sight helps my son to power through subjects that are challenging or not very interesting. This is one of the reasons I am attracted to this homeschooling method.
Tip Number 8– Create fun, hands-on lessons!
Learning is so much easier when it is fun! As much as possible I try to incorporate hands-on learning through tactile sensory play such as play dough, sensory bins, pipe cleaners, manipulatives, and crafts! We make lessons fun and playful by incorporating lots of movement and things my son enjoys such as YouTube videos, DVDs, jumping on the trampoline, and playing games!
Tip Number 9– Don’t forget the Fidgets!
Fidgets are little toys that kids can play with while listening and learning. These squishy toys, sensory balls or even LEGO bricks are useful to help sensory kids keep still while listening to read alouds or watching videos.
Tip Number 10– Good nutrition & healthy filling breakfast make a huge difference!
We’ve recently made some changes to my son’s diet that might be (at least in part) responsible for some improvements we are seeing. We’ve added more probiotics to his diet in the form of an extra yogurt smoothie. This has dramatically changed his regularity! We’ve also added in more Omega 3 to his diet in the form of fresh, wild caught salmon. We tried the vitamin route but he’d rather just eat fish two nights a week and that’s okay with me! With these simple changes we are seeing a big difference in his behavior! 🙂
Are you homeschooling a child with sensory needs? What are some tips you’ve learned that help? Share in the comments below.
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