The child with SPD may have enormous difficulty in the classroom because they are surrounded by stimuli which they are unable to block out. It is not that they are unwilling to learn, or need to try harder (Kranowitz, 1998). They simply cannot process information in a way that allows them to be successful in the classroom the way most neurotypical children do.
A student may have cognitive challenges because:
- the classroom is too visually stimulating
- he/she can't focus while sitting still
- he/she is distracted during "carpet time" because of classmates' close proximity
- the class is too loud during group work or center time
Strategies for addressing these difficulties include reducing visual stimuli - posters etc. can be taken down off the walls around the student to allow for maximum concentration. Lights can be dimmed if necessary, and icons/Pecs (Picture Exchange Communication System) can be used to provide a visual to help children focus (Fig. 9). The student who can't focus unless he's moving can sit on a ball and go for regular movement breaks (Fig. 8). In the case of "carpet time", the tactile sensitive student can be provided with a hula hoop, so as to sit in her own space that feels safe and away from others. The child with sound sensitivity, can be given a set of noise cancelling headphones to wear at times when the class is too loud for her to learn (Fig. 10) (Anderson and Emmons, 2005). These strategies take very little effort, but can have an enormous impact on a child's learning. What is most important, is to help students communicate how they are feeling, what they need, and to provide options to facilitate success.
Figure 8: Sitting on Ball
Figure 9: Visual Schedule
Figure 10: Auditory Sensitivity