The longer I homeschool, the more I see the relationship between my sons’ sensory issues and how they learn. This is my very best advice for homeschooling a child with sensory issues.
It’s so easy, in the winter months and especially over the holidays, for me to lose sight of the fact that my youngest son requires intentional sensory input -every single day. You’d think, so many years post diagnosis and in fourteen years as his mom, I would have it down pat, but the truth is, I let him play video games and watch YouTube without sensory breaks for much of late December.
It caught up with us last week in behavior and mood challenges. It was obvious.
The child needs consistent and intentional sensory input. Remind me next time I forget, OK?
Sensory issues are a large part of our day.
The food challenges, the noise aversion, the shoes, socks and tags – all of this and more is just how we live our lives.
Lately however, as my son has grown out of the usual sensory activities (that he now deems “for babies”) I have come to see that a lack of sensory input directly affects how effectively he is able to learn in our homeschool.
There is evidence to support this. Research continues to show that a child whose sensory system is integrated and “synced” is better able to focus, and ultimately, better able to retain the learning.
Sensory integration has become a constant in our homeschool, both in helping my sons “feel better” in their bodies and in helping them learn. With this in mind, I thought today I would share the most important things I’ve learned over the course of the past ten years or so, since I was first introduced to the reality of sensory processing disorder.
My Very Best Advice For Homeschooling A Child With Sensory Issues
1. Accommodate As Needed Without Guilt
Allowing your child to skip lunch at the table or the park play date that is noisy and sandy, are reasonable accommodations given your child’s sensory needs. Still, many of us feel a sense of shame and guilt when we allow our children these types of accommodations.
I used to worry that I was “babying” my son. I would think, “How is he ever going to handle the real world?”
What I’ve know now, is that accommodation is necessary to help our children learn to cope with their sensory needs. Allowing them the freedom to do what they need to do to feel comfortable in their own bodies, eventually leads to their being more willing to try experiences that they once avoided.
2. Let Your Child Be Your Guide
It amazes me how much our sensory kiddos know what they need (even if they aren’t even aware of it). For example, my youngest son has always loved spinning. Spinning on a swing, spinning on his big wheel, spinning in circles in our living room – turns out, spinning is a way to sync up the vestibular sensory system.
My oldest used to sit on the couch with a big fur blanket over him, no matter what the season. I know now that weighted blankets are a helpful option, but at the time, I had no idea why he would do this.
Our children know what feels good to their systems. They can be our most helpful guides in determining the types of sensory exercises they need.
3. Plan For Sensory Breaks
One of the best things about homeschooling a child with sensory issues is the ability to add sensory experiences in throughout the day.
My son starts his day with balance exercises in our living room. We often leave mid-day to do a little rock climbing at the gym. We have done lessons on the trampoline and with sidewalk chalk hopscotch, all in an attempt to help my child feel calm and better able to focus.
Making sensory activities part of the rhythm of every homeschool day makes a significant difference in my child’s ability to learn and focus. It has also made our days that much more fun!
Without a doubt, homeschooling a child with sensory issues has given me the freedom to do what is necessary, not only to help my child learn academically but to also help him understand his own body and what it takes to be at his best.
More Sensory Ideas And Encouragement:
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.