Children with Sensory Processing Sensitivity
Children who are affected by high Sensory Processing Sensitivity, find school a huge challenge. They show behaviours that interfere with their ability to learn and socialise. Many of them have real difficulty figuring out what is going on inside and outside of their bodies. In effect, causing them great distress, discomfort, and frustration. Unable to adjust to change, they feel overwhelmed by the unpredictable world around them and become withdrawn.
It is important therefore, that we begin to understand and recognise a child’s individual needs as far back as Primary school. One of the problems in our education system is that every child is seen as the same. Furthermore, they are also expected to follow the same academic pathway. In truth, all children function differently from one another! Every one of them have strengths in different areas.
It is unfortunate that the educational system has trouble recognising the problems that sensory processing difficulties cause. Because of this, they label such children as having “behaviour problems”. Being “over/too sensitive”. Being” inattentive”, or even “lazy”. Yet, these amazing children face huge challenges every day in integrating and tolerating internal and external sensory stimuli. Ones which most of us just take for granted.
Supporting Children with SPS in School
The problem is that high Sensory Processing Sensitivity is not fully understood. You see, not all these children with sensory issues are on the autism spectrum. Any anger or frustration is set off by a sensory overload. Which in fact is their own neurological panic response. Hence recognising and understanding these children’s reactions to everyday stimuli must not be confused with being “too sensitive”.
My main goal in all of this is to work simultaneously with the school and the family. Working together to create a Workable Plan of instruction and accommodation that is sufficient for these children’s needs at school.
High sensitivity levels bring both strengths and challenges, as they present increased responsiveness to both positive and negative influences. Therefore, children with SPS benefit most from having a trusted adult around who can be an advocate for them in the school environment. The trusted adult needs to be someone that they have built up a relationship with and who understands their needs. Someone they feel comfortable sharing any worries or concerns with them. As relationships can quickly break down if they feel confronted or not heard.
Individual intervention plans are designed to help and support a child with SPS to function more efficiently at school. Unfortunately, many children with SPS do not receive any type of support at all. This leads to repeated school failure, where eventually the child stops even trying, and then spends a higher percentage of time not attending school. We must not let this happen!
Every child is entitled to the help and support they deserve. When they receive the right support, they can continue to feel good about themselves and succeed through their educational journey with confidence.
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