Date
21 July 2019

Support sensory integration

Sensory processing (also called sensory integration) refers to how the nervous system receives signals from the senses and turns them into motor and behavioural responses.

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Ask the student about their environment

Ask the student about their environment

Some students feel bombarded by sensory information; others seek out intense sensory experiences.

Students with FASD who have sensory process difficulties misinterpret everyday sensory information such as touch, sight, sound, movement, and smell.

Ask the student to describe everything in the classroom that they:

  • smell
  • see
  • hear
  • taste.

Use the information to guide your design of the environment.

Select strategies to reduce sensory overload.

Source: FASD strategies not solutions (opens in a new tab/window)

Auditory strategies

Auditory strategies

To support focus, offer ear protectors or headphones to filter out sounds.

Play soft music. Offer the option to the whole class or on a personal device.

Timetable adjustments

Timetable adjustments

Build flexibility and supports into the classroom environment.

  • Provide physical activity breaks throughout the day to increase engagement.
  • Break up longer tasks with short relaxation breaks to give students opportunities to recharge and refocus.
  • Timetable sitting still activities before morning tea and lunch breaks where students have been active.
  • Include a Swiss ball or mini-tramp in the classroom environment. Movement assists concentration and can release tension.
  • Regularly timetable activities that promote relaxation, such as singing.

Calming spaces and quiet zones

Calming spaces and quiet zones

Make a calming space available to students when they are overwhelmed by sensory stimuli.

Support students on how to use this space. Emphasise it is not a time out or punishment.

What educators need to know about FASD pp 38-45.

Provide sensory supports

Provide sensory supports

Provide students with a sensory support to help them with calming down.

Useful sensory support will vary from student to student. It could be:

  • looking at a book
  • paper and pencils to draw or doodle
  • music or soft soothing sounds to listen to
  • a hand-held toy to manipulate, or a slow moving oil and water toy to watch
  • a weighted blanket or warm fleece blanket
  • a deep back massage or squeezing hands or feet can be soothing for some children.

Talk with your student, and ask your occupational therapist for some safe and appropriate suggestions for calming the nervous system.

Source: What educators need to know about FASD: Working together to educate children in Manitoba with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (opens in a new tab/window)

Useful resources

Useful resources

Website

Dealing with sensory overload for children with an FASD

Read time: 25 min

Publisher: Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Visit website

Website

Sensory processing

Publisher: British Columbia Ministry of Education

Visit website

Website

Fetal alcohol exposure: Time to know, time to act

Read time: 15 min

Publisher: Ontario Provincial Conference, 2013

Visit website

Next steps

More suggestions for implementing the strategy “​Support self-regulation and positive behaviour”:

Return to the guide “Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and learning”

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