QUESTION: Sensory Diet for My Student?

QUESTION:

I have a Kindergarten student who is very disruptive in the classroom. He is very impulsive and becomes upset when corrected. He has a hard time calming himself down. Mom indicates that last year he would have tantrums/melt downs and would become verbal and physically aggressive.

The Sensory Processing Measure indicated that he is mostly an over-responder to sensory input. My questions are:

1. Is this a sensory issue or a behavioral issue?
2. What types of activities should I include in a Sensory Diet?

GWEN’S ANSWER:

This is probably a case of sensory AND behavior. Therefore, we want to set him up for success by making sure his sensory needs are met and then be prepared to follow through behaviorally. To meet his sensory needs, I would set up a sensory diet using mostly yellow and red arrow activities. The yellow arrow activities are mostly proprioceptive, which will help meet his sensory-seeking need without overstimulating him. The red arrow activities will help him deal with the input that is overwhelming.

I would also put a visual schedule in place for this student. Most kids who have frequent tantrums are struggling to feel in control of their lives. The visual schedule usually helps with that. If possible, leave a couple of open spots on the schedule to allow him to place a sensory activity card of his choice (you can control the choices available though). This gives him a sense of control over some parts of the day at least and the other pictures help him to anticipate and prepare for what comes next in the routine. BrainWorks has picture cards for most parts of a kindergarten day: circle time, work, PE, art, etc. If you need more, you can use photographs or pictures for PECS if that is available to you.

I would encourage the parents to use a sensory diet at home too. It’s important to help them understand that the sensory input is a PROactive way of minimizing the behavioral issues while more traditional behavioral strategies (time-out, etc.) are REactive. In other words, they shouldn’t wait until he’s already in meltdown mode to offer the sensory input.

Best Wishes,
Gwen