Kids with sensory needs often times have organization difficulties. They are distracted by their body’s need for sensory integration and are challenged to focus on tasks at hand due difficulties with inattention.
While sensory kids might have attention problems, typically developing kids are also learning to work with the distractions of multi-sensorial input to focus on tasks. You might see visual inattention that causes a child to skip words when copying from a book. You might see them forget to put their homework folder in their backpack at the end of the school day. It’s kind of like a jumble of beads in where all of the colors are so distracting that it’s hard to pull out the ones that are most important. Then the beads spill and you’ve got a disorganized mess to deal with on top of everything else that needs to happen in your day.
There are normal everyday distractions that all of us are managing. I for one am currently distracted by kids, schedules, deadlines, and the need to pull frozen chicken out of the fridge so that we can eat dinner later. A child with sensory needs is distracted by the input their body craves and the overwhelming input that they are constantly bombarded with.
When attention is a primary difficulty relating to disorganization in kids, there are ways to work around and help.
Other reasons for being inattentive:
- Overwhelming and confusing sensory input makes navigating sensory information
- Trouble staying on a task
- Trouble identifying priorities
- Focus on anxiety limits ability to stay on task
- Rigidity causing difficulty transitioning into new tasks
- Motor insecurity (fine motor or gross motor, visual motor, sensori-motor) causes trouble getting started on a task.
- Low frustration tolerance to difficult tasks. These kids might not try a task to avoid a frustrated meltdown as a compensatory strategy
How can Parents Help a Child with Sensory Related Attention and Organization Problems?
So, how can a worried parent or involved teacher help kids who are struggling with attention problems and resulting disorganization? We’ve recently shared tips to help with attention at home and at school. But what if all of the modifications and adaptations to your child’s day are just not working?
What if, as a Mom or a Dad, you are at your wit’s end with your child’s poor attention…the behaviors…your child’s seemingly intentional disregard to directions and others around them. Sometimes, there is a reason for these actions. They aren’t always intentional. They aren’t always ADHD related. They aren’t always the actions of a “bad kid”.
Sometimes, there is an underlying reason for disorganization issues. There is a sensory component.
A child with sensory processing difficulties might have trouble blocking out lights, noises, and movements of others. They might drop their pencil and not even realize it. They might have difficulty with handwriting. They might bump into others in lines at school or bounce off the walls at home. Do these sound familiar?
There are many indications of children who are overly sensitive to typical daily activities:
- Overreact to bright lights and loud noises.
There are also indications of children who are under-responsive to sensory stimulation and seek out more sensory input:
- Constantly touch people or textures.
- Crave fast, spinning and/or intense movement.
- Disregard or no understanding of personal space.
It’s easy to understand how a child with either a low or a high tolerance to sensory stimulation can show inattention to focused tasks. There is so much information coming at them at once and they are unable to filter out what is unnecessary while attending to a directions like “Get your homework out of your back pack” or “Brush your teeth, your hair, and put on your shoes.” How can they possibly keep themselves organized in tasks?
Some of our favorite ways to engage the sensory systems in sensory integration activities are:
- Brain Breaks (get easy-to-use activity cards here)
- Visual cues with bold colored paper, index cards, or table surfaces
- Visual organization sticker chart
- Highlight important information
- Attention Movement Exercises
- Movement-based learning activities
- Weighted Beanbag Toss
- Wobble Ice Disc
- Sensory Diet
- Chewable Jewelry or Oral Motor Tools
- Balance Activities
- Fidget Toys for On-The-Go
- Working on an inclinded surface
- Sensory Processing Considerations and Ideas for Handwriting
- Dinosaur themed Heavy Work Activites
- And many of the sensory activities found HERE.
Try using these techniques to help your child sort out all of the information, and just like those beads that are all over the floor? Create beautiful moments in your day!
Be sure to stop by and see recommendations for Attention difficulties at home and at school, part of a recent Organization series that we’ve shared: