• Hannah OT

#Looking after your child's sensory needs - Day 1!

Welcome to your first day of home-schooling all! First thing to note is this is the first time for all of us, so nothing is a crazy or stupid idea, and what will work for one child may not work for another. I welcome comments and suggestions, but I ask that we try to keep each other positive in this crazy time!

Over the next few weeks I will be bringing you daily tips and ideas to support you in looking after your child’s sensory needs. A really important thing to note here is ALL children have sensory needs, just some are more prominent than others. I will be going into more detail about sensory needs in a later post, but for now if you would like more information about sensory processing this is a great site:

If at any point you would like further information on a topic or you would like me to cover a particular area please do get in touch. If you have specific questions related to your individual child or situation then please comment on the post or feel free to email me.

Top tips for week 1:

1) Remember this is not school, this is home - today and the rest of this week is probably going to be pretty confusing for most children. They will need time to adjust and so I would suggest focusing on the new routine rather than any content this week. Get your child (children) used to a regular timetable - stick to times for start, break, lunch and finish. The timetable itself does not need to be rigid, but you should try to keep to timings - for children who struggle to self-regulate, a regular rhythm of the day is important, particularly timings around snacks and meals.

2) Plan together - take some time this morning to work out what you are going to do this week. Younger children may want to design their timetable, but even an older child will still appreciate knowing what they are expected to do and when. Give your child ownership over their learning - ask them what they would like to learn about. Try to use your child’s interests to underpin essential topics or work to a theme e.g. We’re going to do a space theme for the next two weeks, planning numeracy and literacy around this - we’re also going to do some star gazing over some hot chocolate.

3) Be excited - this is the first time that many of us have had the time and energy to do fun things with our children. Even if you are not an educator or found school tough, there are plenty of ideas and resources online to point you in the right direction at this time.

4) Sit down with your child first thing everyday and go through the timetable for the day - things change and a lot of us are going to have to balance that conference call with our teaching literacy slot, and that is fine! Children who struggle to self-regulate can cope with change, just not unexpected change! A good routine to get into is to write/ draw a checklist for the day. Some children may like to tick this off as they go, and this is a great way to manage an anxious child.

5) Use a ‘Now’ and ‘Next’ board/ piece of paper to reduce children’s anxiety of the unknown. Even if you think your child doesn’t need this level of visual support, you will be surprised how reassuring a simple visual indication can be.

6) Give an indication of the time for an activity - use online stopwatches, phone alarms or a clock if your child is confident with time telling. Also important is an indication of the start and the end of an activity - for younger children you could start the day with the ‘hello’ song and tidy up to the ‘tidy up’ song. For older children you could start the day with their favourite song or a ‘go getter’ theme such as ‘Rocky’. Songs and rhythm can really support a child’s understanding of the routine of the day and can make transitions much easier and less anxiety provoking.

7) Look after your child’s posture during this time at home - remember that many of our dining tables and home furnishings have not been designed for children to sit for long periods of time on. Try to mix up seating positions - lying on the floor in a ‘tummy time’ position is always preferable to sitting hunched up on the sofa. When in a seated position be mindful of the 90/90/90 rule for the back, hips and knees:

8) Encourage your child to take lots of movement breaks - next week I will be giving a new idea for a movement break every day. For now focus on encouraging your child to stretch, jump up and down, change work positions and apply self-massage.

9) Encourage a sibling bond through this time - if one of your children has significantly more sensory needs than the other, particularly if this is a younger sibling, ask for the older sibling’s ideas and support. Give them responsibility to watch out for signs of dysregulation in their younger brother or sister. Ask for their help during this time, and reinforce the idea that we all need to work together as this is new for all of us. More on this in another post.

10) Start your day with exercise - remember that as your child is at home they are not going to get the same amount of exercise as they would do going to school in the morning or playing with their friends at break time. This is a great time to start a family exercise routine and to get fit together!

Log on tomorrow for a sensory circuit to start your day!

See you then and remember we’ve got this:-)

Hannah OT x

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