School is tough enough without throwing in additional challenges. How are SPD kids affected in the school system and what can we do to help support our kids?
Today on Voices of SPD we are joined by Lyn of Growing Up: Sensory Processing Disorder. Lyn, who taught pre-school and elementary school, talks about growing up undiagnosed with SPD, how it affected her in school and how she’s managing her own son’s sensory challenges.
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The SPD Kid in School
How does SPD affect a child’s behavior in school?
As I used to teach elementary and pre-school, I’ve seen many behaviors that are quickly labelled as “naughty” or “disobedient.” This is an unfair label due to the fact that SPD kids cannot control themselves when they are overloaded with sensory inputs and having a sensory meltdown. As such, I feel that many of these kids go through their school years with a reputation that no one really likes to carry.
In my experience growing up unknowingly with SPD, it was very common for my classmates and teachers to label me as “weird” due to my little quirks. I would be the girl everyone would see walking all over the school during recess and/or lunch.
I’m not kidding when I said all over the school, I really mean all over the school.
There were times I didn’t just walk. I ran.
I would stop at every floor and take a quick glance into each classroom where my little sisters and younger cousins are to check on them, before stopping at the cafeteria to buy a snack. I’d then visit my friends in different classes and quickly chat with them before I’d go back to the classroom just in time before the next teacher came. The older I got, the more I walked (though the running lessened). Even when my friends ended up in classes several floors below mine, I’d still walk over to see them before running back up the stairs to go back to my class.
In high school, the behaviors continued. I had learned to sit still long enough in class, but I never sat still long enough during breaks to socialize with my classmates. I was just too busy walking or running around.
[bctt tweet=”I was never considered a problem student, but I was considered a strange one. “]
I was never considered a problem student, or even a defiant one. I did ok, my grades were not bad. But I was considered to be a strange one. I continued to walk around the school at break times, continued to visit the floors and classes of my sisters and cousins, and stopped to chat with a few friends, older and younger, up to the day I graduated.
The friends I had accepted my quirks just as they were, but the rest either looked at me strangely or even tittered about me behind their hands. It wasn’t just the walking or the running, it was the way I held myself apart. I just wasn’t interested in many of the things they were. I think it was a combination of my SPD quirks and preferences that weren’t compatible with them that caused the years of bullying and mocking that never really stopped until I graduated.
What are the implications for teachers to consider in having an SPD child in their class?
This applies to teachers who have students that have been formally diagnosed with SPD, which may or may not be a result of other conditions (i.e. ASD, ADD).
Firstly, I want to stress that with any student, especially one with special needs, never ever label him or her. Because once you label that student, chances are that student will likely live up to that label. And nothing is more devastating than to label a child negatively.
[bctt tweet=”With any student, especially one with special needs, never ever label him or her.”]
Secondly, learn everything you can about your student’s condition. In cases with SPD, learn to distinguish between a tantrum and a meltdown. Also consider making your lessons multisensory, and always consider your student’s sensory needs in your lesson planning.
Thirdly, if the child/student is undergoing treatments such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, or speech therapy, ask the child’s/student’s parents for permission to get in contact with the therapist so you can work together for the student’s benefit.
If I am a parent of an SPD child, what are my options? Does this mean my child has to go to a special school?
Not necessarily. I may sound like a broken record, but this is really important after all.
No two cases of SPD are exactly the same.
[bctt tweet=”No two cases of Sensory Processing Disorder are exactly the same.”]
So it all boils down to what your child needs. If you suspect SPD in your child, please do not feel any shame. There is nothing wrong with having a child with special needs. It’s not anything you, as a parent, did wrong to cause this to your child. But the best thing you can do is get a diagnosis so you can decide on your next steps to help him/her.
So no, it’s not automatic that SPD means your child goes to a special school. It really depends on you, as the parent, and your child with his/her needs. The school, your child’s doctors (regular and developmental), the therapists can help provide you with support to do what is best for your child, especially in the aspect of education.
So far, with R not really talking yet, we know realistically he will not do well in a regular school. It’s not to say we think he’s lacking in intelligence. Oh no, far from it. My husband and I know how intelligent R is. And believe me, he surprises us with how much he knows. But his lack of verbal communication is what’s holding him back and will be an obstacle for him to excel in big schools.
Then there’s the small schools and progressive schools. I used to teach in a rather small school, and I really felt ill-equipped to help the students I had who were suspected to have ASD. My former co-teachers were not really helpful and I left the school not long after.
It’s not to say I think small or progressive schools are not good, I just don’t feel that it’s the right fit for R.
But those are your options. Regular school, small schools, or progressive schools. Talk with your OT or the doctor and find what works best for you child. Be your child’s advocate in his/her school and do not tolerate bullying in any form. Ensure that your child’s school, its faculty and staff, as well as his/her classmates and schoolmates are taught to be kind to each other, especially to those who have special needs.
As for us, my husband and I have decided to take another route – homeschooling.
Sensory Processing Disorder Resources
For more reading about Sensory Processing Disorder in school:
A Teacher’s Guide to Sensory Processing DisorderSensory Solutions in the Classroom: The Teacher’s Guide to Fidgeting, Inattention and RestlessnessSuccess with Sensory Supports: The ultimate guide to using sensory diets, movement breaks, and sensory circuits at schoolSelf-Regulation and Mindfulness: Over 82 Exercises & Worksheets for Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, & Autism Spectrum Disorder
This post originally appeared on Growing Up: Sensory Processing Disorder. You can read more from Lyn there.
If you’d like to become a part of Voices of SPD on The Sensory Spectrum, please read about how to join Voices of SPD.