A colleague posed a question on a social media forum that I belong to as to whether other colleagues had heard of using sensory immersive approach within a coaching session. A number of colleagues asked him to clarify, he then showed a picture of a school’s ‘sensory room’.
My reply was to be cautious when using this approach, as some individuals may have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). As many of you know, my son is on the autistic spectrum and one of his conditions is SPD.
It made me think about children who are on the spectrum within Early Years settings who are displaying SPD, as educators may think it is due to something else.
In his own early years, my son would not step on leaves – a real challenge in autumn!
I recently spoke to a specialist in autism-related behaviour and explained how my son displayed hyperactive behaviour within his early and primary years. She said that more than likely he was reacting to the environment, due to SPD.
My son doesn’t like to be touched either, I recently asked him how it feels when someone touches him, his response: “It feels like very cold ice-cream on your teeth!”
Likewise, I was fortunate to hear Professor Stuart Shankar recall a situation with a child who cried non-stop whilst within an Early Years setting. Eventually, the educators noticed it was the strip lights in the room that were the issue.
Once, when I was carrying out a consultancy visit, a child didn’t want to go into the hall for a music and movement session. The educator asked me if that was ok. I said, of course! Maybe there was an issue of SPD for this child.
Think about children who chew things, which can be another sign of SPD, or those who have a transitional object (also other objects that they come across within a setting) that is placed in their mouth. Transitional objects are extremely important for some children.
Or when we see a child who doesn’t like to touch sand or cornflour. How many times have I heard educators say this is because the parents want them to be clean all the time! Could this be SPD?
I am a lover of all things sensory within an Early Years setting. I have written on numerous occasions that settings need to be as natural as possible as there are more learning opportunities. Equally, I am passionate that children should receive appropriate quality interactions from educators that involve, cuddles, touching and stroking.
However, we need to be mindful that there are some children who may have SPD and how this has an impact on their behaviour.
The key person’s role is equally important in observing and connecting with the child, seeing what the child’s behaviour is like within a variety of situations and not just observing as a checklist against the Early Learning Goals.
Children are only with us for a short period of time during their formative years within our settings and finding out about their behaviour characteristics is vital in supporting them with their learning and development. What a privileged position to be in as an educator, that a child allows us into their world.
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