Homeschooling is a great educational structure for students with sensory disorder because you can tailor the environment and instruction to meet your child’s sensory needs.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) impacts a child’s ability to regulate senses and emotions. Kids with SPD usually prefer certain clothing and foods due to their high sensitivity to textures and tastes. SPD kids are constantly in a state of fight or flight and do well with consistent routines and opportunities to relax. They need additional reassurance and guidance when, for example, inclement weather is in the forecast or their favorite snack is out of stock.
Homeschooling Kids with Sensory Disorder
Homeschooling supports students with Sensory Disorder in three big ways as described below.
Creative Learning Space
Your home already gives a child with SPD a comfortable space to learn. It allows you to put familiar tools in their learning space that help with self-regulation such as a weighted blanket or fidget toys. Being at home is already a huge advantage of homeschool for kids with SPD.
Homeschoolers can learn in the space where you know they work best, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. The family pet can also join in and support your kiddo with sensory needs as pets have been known to help kids manage stress and emotions.
More ideas for your creative learning space:
- Add a beanbag or exercise balls for a way to sit and still move
- Create a designated chair or space for your child to decompress when needed
- Put up a general schedule or important reminders as visual cues
- Keep a set of headphones accessible for days when a new noise is overwhelming
- Allow plenty of time for breaks and find creative ways to incorporate physical movement
Focus on Nutrition
Diet and nutrition concerns are very common among kids with SPD. A traditional brick and mortar school may not be able to accommodate diets with lunches sent from home, such as foods that may need to be warmed.
Lunch at home gives kids with SPD familiar foods in a comfortable setting so you can continue to focus on nutrition and health. They will naturally perform better by having access to familiar snacks and foods throughout the school day.
More ideas for a focus on nutrition:
- Teach a unit on cultures that may spark your child’s interest enough to try a related food
- Allow your child to help cook or make recipes to engage new senses
- Use foods in instructional activities (such as churning butter to teach about pioneer life) and encourage your child to sample them
Traditional schools also adapt instruction for kids with special needs, but it often requires a lengthy process and strategies are inconsistent due to the number of students to teacher ratio. Many kids with SPD struggle with the process of writing. If you know your child prefers to write with a short golf pencil because it helps with their grip, it’s always accessible in the same place with their supplies at home. If your child doesn’t do well on the computer, you can avoid computer-based lessons or gradually incorporate it over time. You will be able to adapt instruction to set your child up for success.
More ideas on adapting instruction:
- For younger students who refuse to color, put a piece of sandpaper behind their paper on a clipboard and slant it upwards. Sometimes feeling the bumpy texture underneath works with kids who are otherwise reluctant to color.
- Divide larger assignments into smaller tasks
- Include sensory activities that your child finds safe and enjoyable, such as kinetic sand, slime, or bubbles
The homeschool environment sets up a child with sensory needs for success. Over time, they will mature and acquire coping skills to successfully navigate adulthood and providing this healthy, supportive educational foundation will pave the way for their future success!