Concerned about how your child with sensory processing disorder will function at school this year? Why not consider a letter to your child’s teacher or teachers to ensure that they know of your son or daughter’s sensory issues and how best to support your sensory child at school?
Even if your child has a IEP, these documents only provide a quick snapshot of the kinds of issues sensory kids deal with in classrooms, on the playground, in the gym or art or music rooms, in the cafeteria, and so on. Frankly, they’re the equivalent of a fuzzy, low-resolution shot of a small part of the whole picture of your child! IEPs just don’t capture how your child functions during the school day. That’s why it’s a great idea to introduce your child to her new teacher each year with a letter that fleshes out that picture.
Start with introducing yourself and provide an upbeat description of your wonderful sensory child. You might want to include a photo of your child, too.
Next, tell the teacher that you’re writing so you can make it easier for him or her to get to know your child's unique challenges and how they might affect your child at school. Then, list your child’s diagnoses and describe her school challenges. You don’t have to anticipate everything your child might experience, but try to think of the most common problems she has experienced in the past. For instance, you might note that your daughter typically chews on her hair, zones out when there’s a lot of auditory stimulation, and gets hyper at recess and has trouble calming down when she gets back to class. You might note that doesn’t raise her hand or participate in discussions because she’s often afraid that if she’s called on she’ll take so long processing his answer that the kids will laugh at her, and so on. Describe interventions and accommodations that have worked for her. Focus on strategies that are workable at school, not just ones that have worked at home as these may not be feasible in a school environment. Note whether these accommodations and calming activities been included in the IEP or on a 504 plan. Ask whether the teacher would have any challenges with implementing these sensory diet accommodations and activities.
Be sure to end on a positive note and let the teacher know you are working to help your child with her issues and teach her to address them on her own in appropriate ways. Offer your contact information and availability and invite her to discuss these issues at any time. Let her know you’ll be at parent orientation and conferences. Teachers like to know that you recognize it’s not their job to “fix” your child, and that you’re actively involved in helping your child–especially in helping her to take responsibility for her needs.
Do you want to educate your child’s teacher on sensory issues? You might consider buying her a copy of the award-winning book Raising a Sensory Smart Child, which is full of information on sensory kids and how to help them function well at school. Believe me, yours is not the only student with sensory issues the teacher will encounter! As many as one in ten children have sensory processing disorder. By helping your child’s teacher better understand SPD, you’re actually helping not just your child but all the students with sensory issues that may end up having that teacher.
Remember that while teachers are very busy this time of year, your child is also busy trying to transition to a new classroom, new teacher, new group of kids, and perhaps a new school. Easing that transition by opening up communication before there’s a problem can be incredibly helpful for everybody!
Finally, if you would like your child to be evaluated for sensory issues and how they may be affecting her ability to function and learn in a school environment, talk to your school’s special ed director. Show him any sensory profiles you or the teacher have completed. Some schools have occupational therapists who do evaluations and provide assistance or even SI therapy (sensory integration therapy), or set up a sensory diet, for students with sensory issues.
And to prepare yourself for the new school year, you might want to subscribe to this blog and pick up a copy of Raising a Sensory Smart Child to learn even more about how to help your sensory child at school–as well as at home and away.
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