How Can You Help Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues Do Better in School?

WebMD Feature from Child Mind InstituteLogo for Child Mind Institute, Inc.
2 min read

There is no medication to treat sensory processing issues, but there are therapies, as well as practical changes you can make at school and home to help your child feel and do better.

Occupational therapists (or OTs) are the specialists who work with kids who have sensory issues. The majority of OTs work in schools, though you can also find them in private practice. They engage kids in physical activities that are designed to regulate their sensory input.


You and your child's teacher can discuss changes you can make to help him be more comfortable, secure and able to focus in the classroom. For instance: 

  • Make sure his chair is a good fit for him. When he's sitting at his desk, he should be able to put his feet flat on the floor and rest his elbows on the desk. 
  • For the child who needs to move a bit, you might try an inflated seated cushion or a pillow from home so he can both squirm and stay in his seat. 
  • Some kids are better off if they sit close to the teacher. However, if your child is easily distracted by noise, he may end up turning around often to where the noise is coming from. 
  • If possible, eliminate buzzing and flickering fluorescent lighting. 
  • Make sure he's not sitting next to distracting sources of noise. 
  • Have the OT work with him on knowing where his body is in relation to other people and things, and the idea of personal space. 
  • Provide sensory breaks such as walking in circles, jumping on a mini-trampoline and sucking on sour candy so he gets the input he craves and doesn't bump into others. 
  • Allow for fidgets and chewable items, available in OT catalogues, to provide input. 
  • Have the OT work with him on both gross and fine motor skills so he's more confident, whether he's in gym class or taking notes. 
  • To avoid meltdowns or bolting, allow him to skip school assemblies, or sit near a door so that he can take breaks in the hallway with a teacher when he starts to feel himself getting overwhelmed. 
  • If the cafeteria is too stimulating, see about having him and one or more lunch buddies eat in a quieter room with a teacher or aide. 
  • Have a clear visual schedule posted with plenty of preparation for transitions. 

With support and accommodations from an understanding teacher, and perhaps with an OT, your child with sensory processing issues can be primed for success in class, on the playground and with friends.

Originally published on February 29, 2016


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