QUESTION: Suggestions for fidgety kid who’s also learning?

QUESTION:

I work in a school system primarily with grades 2–5. I recently received a request from a parent to brush her child because she does it at home and she sees immediate changes in his demeanor. He is very “squirrelly” in class and needs constant redirection, but feedback from the teachers is that he is learning and answering questions appropriately. I am not a fan of the brushing protocol, am not certified, and am not even in the school every day to do the protocol. Sensory breaks and strategies are provided throughout the day, but maybe I need to step it up a bit. Is there something you can suggest for calming this fidgety kid. Thanks!

GWEN’S ANSWER:

My first thought when I hear about a “squirrelly” kid who is actually learning (as the teachers report) is that we should let him continue to be squirrelly! The movement is serving a purpose for him. To prevent it from being a distraction to others and to reduce the frequency of redirection required, here are some suggestions:

  • Implement classroom-based movement breaks. These should be short but frequent. Based on our recent research, I recommend a brain/movement break once every 15 minutes for kindergartners. For higher grades, add 5 minutes per grade (every 20 minutes for first grade, etc.) until you hit once every 50 minutes, which then continues to be our need throughout adulthood. These brain breaks are especially good for kids like the one you are asking about, but they are also helpful for nearly all of the kids in the classroom. Just be sure you are recommending movement activities that are mainly proprioceptive in nature: yoga, deep pressure through head, wall push-ups, etc.
  • Provide alternative seating. I really like standing desks for kids like this. Kore Wobble Chairs are also great. These options allow him to get the movement he needs while staying on task.
  • Ensure that recess is never taken away as a consequence. Kids like him need that time to reach their high thresholds for sensory input.
  • Trial compression clothing or a vest with him. If he does respond well to the brushing program, it’s probably because the deep pressure input helps him connect to his body more effectively. Compression may be able to accomplish the same goal.

I hope this helps!

Best Wishes,
Gwen