6 Ways to Make Your Classroom More Sensory Inclusive
Sensory-inclusive classrooms have the potential to significantly improve learning outcomes for ALL children, not just those with additional sensory needs. By making minor adjustments to the sensory triggers present in most classroom settings, educators can create a more supportive, compassionate, and inclusive learning environment for their students.
As Alexander Den Heijer aptly put it, “when a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” True classroom inclusion requires embracing and understanding the diverse experiences of students. This is particularly important when it comes to creating sensory-friendly classrooms since there is no one-size-fits-all formula. Each child has unique sensory needs that must be considered for them to learn, grow, and thrive.
To create a more sensory-friendly classroom, collaboration is key. Educators should work with students, family members, teachers, occupational therapists, counsellors, social workers, and psychologists to identify successful strategies they may be using at home, in the clinic, or in other environments.
Here are six concepts to consider when creating a more sensory-friendly classroom:
Room Layout: Minimise visual input in the classroom by keeping decorations and visual resources to a minimum. Declutter the classroom and store resources out of sight.
Seating: Provide alternative seating options that allow children to bounce and fidget as needed while still being able to absorb the lesson. Consider bouncy balls, rocking chairs, tactile cushions, wriggle stools, or bean bag chairs.
Noise/Sounds: Minimise noise in the classroom by providing chairs and tables with rubber feet to prevent scraping sounds. Offer headphones for students who are sensitive to noise to block out unwanted distractions.
Lighting: Avoid fluorescent lighting as it can inhibit children's ability to focus and cause eye strain or headaches. Instead, use incandescent and natural lighting.
Movement: Plan regular, predictable movement breaks to allow children to de-escalate from the sensory stimulation of the classroom environment and avoid frustration or distress.
Sensory Spaces: Create a designated sensory area in the classroom where students can refocus and self-regulate. Include items that speak to your specific students’ needs to create an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion.
By implementing these concepts, educators can create a more sensory-inclusive classroom that accommodates the unique needs of all students. With a more supportive and compassionate learning environment, students can thrive and reach their full potential.
Some options to consider include:
- Creating a sensory box filled with fidgets and calm down toys. These could include; stress balls, fidgets, slime, putty or foam, sensory bottles, “pop its” and puzzle balls.
- Chewing tools and “Chewelry” (For information on choosing the right chew tools, see our Blog Post on this topic).
- Provide weighted items like weighted toys.
- Fluffy cushions or throw rugs.
- Sensory Lights.
- Special Interest Books or items.
- Emotion Cards and Visuals.
Now that you’ve set up a sensory friendly classroom, why not think about creating sensory friendly spaces in other parts of the school too! The Principal or Vice Principal’s office, library, art and music rooms, a designated sensory room which could be used at recess and lunchtime.
Take a look at our full range of Sensory Friendly Classroom products here.
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