A child is over responding to sensory input from the classroom environment. The fluorescent lights are too bright, the janitor is rolling his cart down the hallway, a new pair of socks are too tight, and a fly is buzzing near a window. The combined sensations are too much.
The classroom is an environment that is a place where over-responsiveness can easily interfere with learning, self-confidence, or social emotional development.
Having a toolbox of sensory strategies to address over-responsiveness can be invaluable in the classroom.
Calm Down Strategies for School
Below are sensory strategies for school that can be used with children who over-respond to sensory input, have difficulties with anxiety, or struggle with attention or executive functioning difficulties.
Get a printable version of this list HERE.
A child who needs self-regulation strategies to better learn or function in the classroom can benefit from one or more of these strategies. Every child is different and each will respond in different ways. Not all of these sensory strategies will help every child. Consider underlying issues and consult a school-based occupational therapist for assessment and interventions.
Related Read: Try these free classroom fidget tools and sensory strategies for the classroom.
Sensory Strategies to help children calm down at school:
Use a predictive schedule
Limit close seating
Minimize auditory stimulation (Utilize earbuds, sound-minimizing headphones, white noise, whisper phones)
Increase space between children
Provide a calm down zone
Weighted lap blanket
Try tactile tools at the desk
Decrease visual distractions (trifold, work standing at an easel, single color bulletin boards)
Use a visual schedule for transitions
Provide a warning before fire drills or bus evacuation drills
Plan an accomodate for school-wide assemblies
Provide a calm down portion of the day build into the schedule with deep breathing and soft music
Stretches before desk work or tests
Add wall push-ups or chair push-ups into the daily schedule
Water bottles with a straw at each desk (ask parents to send in sports bottles)
Allow gum during tests or quiet work time
Quiet fidget toys
Movement learning with the whole classroom
Here are more classroom sensory strategies that may help.
Need more information on sensory processing, grab the Sensory Processing Disorder Handbook below.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.