At Parayhouse School we understand that children process sensory information in different ways. Sensations are normally thought as being: vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell, but there are 2 extra senses, proprioception sense (the awareness of where the limbs are in space), and vestibular sense (providing information on balance and position of the body.)
These extra senses are very important, and allow the child to understand the world around them.
The combined senses help people interact with their environment as well as allowing one to understand the environment around oneself and therefore interact with the world around them. Children with learning issues often have difficulty with this, which can result in poor behaviours to tactile input such as combing hair or cutting nails; to auditory input (noise) or visual input, resulting in behavioural outbursts.
It is important that sensory issues are addressed so that a child can be ready to learn. This is achieved in Parayhouse by the use of sensory strategies, sensory circuits, sensory diets and also sensory integration sessions.
Sensory strategies are supports or equipment which use the senses to help organise arousal levels and engagement in activity. Arousal is the level of alertness in the body. The senses can be used to change our level of alertness.
The OT's goal is always engagement in meaningful activity. We may use the sensory strategy to organise a child’s arousal, but our end focus might be that they listen to the teacher, or they are successful playing with their friends in the playground.
Example sensory strategies include wobble cushions; these give extra vestibular sensory feedback and help children to stay more alert. Or, using touch pressure or heavy work to help a child to stay calm. A fidget toy is another example of a sensory strategy which uses the touch sense.
These are run each morning. There are 3 different activities that the child rotates around. The aim of these sessions is to get the child to transition from transport and to help them move to the classroom ready for learning.
These are designed by the OT to provide the child with a way of getting sensory input throughout their day. It is like medicine and needs to be done at regular prescribed times and duration. These sensory diets are carried out by the Learning Support Assistants from the child’s class.