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Sensory problems and coping in the classroom

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#1 Tez



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Posted 14 October 2005 - 03:15 PM

All the "experts" who have assessed A for his possible statement have been agreed that he has severe sensory integration dysfunction and that this is severely hindering his ability to learn anything in school.

The EP asked me whether I knew of any other children who had sensory problems as severe as A's and if so how were they being educated because he was struggling to see how the LEA were going to meet A's needs given his sensory problems.

A finds it virtually impossible to go outside our front door for any period of time, the on slaught on his senses will cause him to shut down, or to become so agitated that there is no way he can absorb anything.

I'm sure there must be others who have the same problems so has any LEA come up with a solution other than home ed or residential school or has anyone accepted one of these options purely because there was no alternative? I'm told that it is likely that A's case will be referred to the "Creative Solutions Panel" within the LEA which basically means haven't a clue what to do with this child what can we fobb the parents off with.

I have my own ideas but can't actually find an exact precedent for them so will need to persuade the LEA but am open to other solutions.

Edited by Tez, 14 October 2005 - 03:18 PM.

#2 phasmid


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Posted 14 October 2005 - 05:34 PM

This may be of limited help.

We had a section of the classroom screened off for an AS child. This allowed him to have no distractions. I lined the window with a nuetral blue colour and we kept it bland. He would invite a partner from time to time but this was HIS area. His needs do not sound as extreme as in your case but this really helped him cope. I would just pop-in and check him every few minutes. It worked in this case and I have heard it working in others.

I hope this at least offers some pointers for you to follow up.

#3 BusyLizzie100



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Posted 14 October 2005 - 05:37 PM

Hello Tez, my son has Sensory Integration Dysfunction also, but probably not as bad as your son.

We managed to get a Statement in place for him just as he started school, but it was really the diagnosis of ASD that got things moving. It has been a struggle to convince people that so many of his difficulties actually arise from SID or DSI, as his Occupational Therapist calls it. For example, he can barely hold a pencil because he doesn't get the right feedback from his hand; walking up and particularly down stairs is excruciatingly difficult for him, because he feels like he's stepping out of a plane when he puts his foot down on a step - he doesn't know where it is. And then there's all the other people looming up and barging into his space and freaking him out (leads to lashing out to keep people at bay) and noises. There are the obvious noises, like sirens and balloons popping ~(why do so many shops have balloons inthem; why do people insist that your child must have a balloon! Guaranteed to send him into hyperspace!), but also much more subtle ones, like the particular tone of a voice.

Fortunately for my son, he has had pretty good OT input since he was about four (he's now nearly six), consisting of SI therapy, but it's never enough. He has maybe four sessions a year, after which the OT says OK, let's discharge him now until any further problems arise. At which point, I point out that fine, he can walk downstairs now, but he still can't hold a pencil. It doesn't stop, just like that! And we are just trying to get him up to something approaching the capability of his peers, who also are constantly maturing and moving up in the scale in their own capability, like being able to put their own shoes on and get dressed themselves and play games together.... So we manage to eke out another set of sessions, but it should be more.

My huge bone of contention is that OT is apparently a HEALTH issue and therefore funded by health moneypots, and not an EDUCATION issue and can therefore not be included on a Statement, so my son's otherwise good Statement badly lets him down in one of the areas that he needs it most. My argument is always: how can he possibly learn when he is barely succeeding to survive each day in what to him is a mad, bad world full of sensory onslaught. His stress must be enormous. My understanding is that you CAN get OT included on a Statement if you battle hard enough, go to appeal and tribunal etc. We decided not to do this for my son because it would have delayed his badly-needed Statement for months, possibly a year, and that would have been so much time wasted. As it is, he has so far had a fantastic teacher and a superb LSA who are prepared to take on board the OT's advice, to a certain extent. His teacher commented last year that she could see how much difference OT has made to my son. Then why can't it be on the Statement??? It's a vital need to help him access the curriculum?

OK, rant over. It sounds to me from your post, Tez, that you have a much greater case than me for getting OT and whatever else is needed for your son on a Statement, and these are fundamentals that have to be in place before education even comes into it. Does he have OT? You really need one who is into DSI; my son's first OT discharged him on first meeting him and it was only when I went back and said no, look at him again (or else!)that he said, oh yeah. I diagnosed my son for him (because my elder son also has DSI, but ironically he is undersensitive to his environment, so bumps and crashes about to get MORE feedback - what a happy household!)

Anyway, sorry, because I haven't come up with a solution for you, but DSI is a fairly 'new' area in this country - it's better documented in the States. Carol Stock Kranowitz's book The Out-Sync-Child helped me enormously in the beginning.

And I can offer you one kernel of help, I hope: my son has improved. With understanding (lots of it) and support and help and assistance and therapy and LOTS and LOTS of input, he has improved - he can now even write his name. I cry everytime he does it.

All the best, Tez - keep us posted.


#4 Hectorshouse


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Posted 14 October 2005 - 05:58 PM

Hi busy just read you post here and remembered seeing on the IPSEA website that OT and SALT can be included in part 3 of the statement,

This was taken from the case law section http://www.ipsea.org.uk/caselaw.htm

'A child's need for occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy could be a 'special educational need' and the therapies to meet these needs could be specified in Part 3 of a Statement as 'special educational provision'.'


#5 Tez



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Posted 14 October 2005 - 06:03 PM

Thanks Both,

Lizzie A was assessed by an OT Monday. She says the jury's still out on whether SI therapy works and that there is no evidence either to support it or discredit it. She also said that where it is thought to be most useful is when the SID is picked up at a young age, A is now 14 and she said success stories seem to be slimmer the later in life it is diagnosed. However, she did say that SI therapy was still in its early stages, particularly in this country and that she would like any feed back that I could get on therapies that others had found helpful, so if you feel able to offer any pointers please pm me.

It is very difficult to make someone else understand the problems that SID causes, like your son tone of voice is something that will cause A to shutdown, the wrong perfume, the smell of fish and chips lingering on someone's clothes, the buzz of grasshoppers, harsh lighting, the wrong pressure of touch. I could go on and on. When you combine this with the fact that he doesn't recognise faces, has dyspraxia and As the picture gets more complicated.

Thanks Phasmid,

The suggestions you made would help but wouldn't be practical. The only schools that the LEA can offer are large mainstream comprehensives, smallest has 1200 pupils, and all work on moving pupils around. If this is the best they can offer he's better off at home with just part time attendance at school to use Science labs etc. The other options are PRUs which are totally unsuitable.

Thanks HH,

The OT will be submitting a report so we'll see what the LEA says so will bear your comments in mind.

Edited by Tez, 14 October 2005 - 06:06 PM.

#6 Flora


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Posted 14 October 2005 - 06:56 PM

Tez, haven't had time to read the whole of your post, but my youngest son had problems with sounds, he spent a great deal of time with his hands over his ears and getting distressed; he has for the past 14 months been having Johansen sound therapy to create a right ear dominance and to correct some of his processing of different frequencies, he's not totally immune to sounds now (he still hates the toilet flushing etc) but he's miles better. I'd definatelely reccomend some sort of Sensory Integration therapy.


#7 Ian Jordan

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Posted 14 October 2005 - 07:42 PM

e mail me tez at IanJordan@visualdyslexia.com
or see me in at conference at NEC in November, we have precedents, can also advise on this area. Sensory integration cannot be left with education authorities, the visual side is so complex they cannot have expertise in most cases and almost certainly won't if case is svere. OT assessments are not adequate if visual input is at fault. Most optical and medical professionals are also not trained in this area.
However, things are going to change! You will need to work in absolutes, there are only around 10 people in country that I could recommend and can do this, sad.

#8 Kathryn



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Posted 14 October 2005 - 10:17 PM

Hi Tez,

Although my daughter doesn't have this particular official label, she certainly has sensory problems of this severity, visual, tactile and auditory. She hid these for many years: although there were little clues - she could never tolerate the theatre, for example.

When she last sat in a classroom back in October, she was unable to hear anything due to the background noise or unable to process anything the teacher was saying. In very noisy environments she went into shutdown - put ther head on the desk and covered her ears. Any touch sent her into a frenzy - a problem in a school of 1000+ pupils where someone might brush against her. She could not walk to school any more because of the traffic noise - she would cover her ears and run across the road in a panic. She found there were too many visual distractions in most classrooms that others would not have noticed.

For months she was unable to go out either as we could not control the environment there would be a car horn, a siren, a baby crying which would set her off. If an outing was unavoidable she wore ear plugs so that she could cope.

Now, months on, she is less sensitive to her environment - or perhaps she has just learned to control her reactions more. We still take the earplugs out with us and there are still certain sounds she cannot tolerate - pedestrian crossings and high pitched phones for example. We have a running battle over the radios at home - I turn them on all around the house; she turns them off. I am doubtful she will ever be able to sit in a normal "buzzy" classroom - she may control her anxiety but she would not be calm enough to learn in such an environment. as our very caring senco said, 'we can try lots of things but we can't change the basic school environment', and he's right. A large comprehensive school is always going to be the kind of environment which assaults and overload the senses of children such as ours.

As to whether our LEA came up with a Creative Solution?? laughing.gif laughing.gif We're still holding our breath. Good luck with the "We Don't Want to Spend Any Money but Let's Make it Look as if we Care " Panel. Let me know if they come up with anything.


#9 barefoot wend

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Posted 15 October 2005 - 05:19 PM


No idea if this will help but I heard of a new book out called 'Understanding Sensory Dysfunction' by Polly Godwin Emmons and Liz McKendry Anderson (Jessica Kingsley Publishers).

The blurb says ''Understanding Sensory Dysfunction' is a clear and comprehensive resource to identifying and addressing sensory dysfunction in children, using a range of practical strategies to help them reach their full potential at home, at school and in the community. .....Focusing on early intervention they provide a host of tried and tested integration activities, assessment and curricular modifications, treatment options and useful equipment and resources that ultimately aim to limit or prevent the interference of sensory dysfunction with successful learning, socialisation and skills development.'

Perhaps someone else here may have read it?

Good luck


#10 Marcia


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Posted 06 January 2013 - 07:23 PM

Hello I'm Asperger Girl i struggle with sensory overload mainly with sound little tiny noise i hear and they annoy me such as sniffiling , whisitling , humming , tapping , whispering , i struggle with many more on top off this i really am trying to get help i have tryed ear plugs they werent strong enough im now trying Ear Muff's like the ones builders use but if i do were them and they help i will have the mickey taken out of me HELP PLEASE xx

#11 Merry


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Posted 06 January 2013 - 10:30 PM

No one knew much about this kind of thing when i was growing up...I still hate telephones, radio and tv to this day. School was vicious, harsh, didn't cope with it at all...luckily during secondary school, my art teacher took pitty on me and let me sit in her room for the lunch hours. It helped me get through the other parts of the day to some extent. For me, I just had to move inside my own head and learn to shut everything out. I put a hidden barrier between me and everything else and learned to pretend that everything and everyone around me wasn't really there. I sort of placed myself in a ghost world. If it's not really happening, it can't effect you. Unfortunately i became so far removed from the school experience that it soon started to feel more like it was `me` who wasn't really there, and it was not the kind of thing i could switch on and off at will...so when for example, i'd be asked a question by somebody, i'd just stand there staring at them, unable to get out of my bubble quickly enough to respond. I couldn't be selective. I had to block out everything or nothing. So in class, I couldn't learn. Despite this, i still did well in a lot of the exams because i read a lot at home. But as for actually being in a school setting, it was a complete waste of my early life. Obviously my issues weren't as severe as the kids mentioned above but i think a lot of people with aspergers face these dilemas and i guess we all have to find our own ways of coping. My way might not be healthy but it worked for me. I wish i could help more but i really don't know what to suggest.

#12 trekster


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Posted 07 January 2013 - 06:37 PM

try avoiding aspartame, gluten and dairy in your diet. I found this helped with mine also Jessica kingsley publications have a book on asd and sensory issues.
.a weighted jacket helped me and also optometrist for colorimeter lenses which are glasses worn to prevent sensory overload.

#13 robert7111a


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Posted 10 January 2013 - 04:44 PM

Hi Marcia

Reducing stress is a major factor in reducing sensory overload...plus a good diet, plenty of sleep and reduction of caffeine. Ear plugs are ok to an extent but they may not block out all frequencies

What kinds of noises stresses you out the most?

#14 ohalrightthen


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Posted 27 January 2013 - 10:11 AM


I am new to this forum. I have already been on this journey with my 6 year old son for almost 14 months now. This all seems to be a common theme I must say. My son H is still awaiting an official diagnosis for Aspergers (now classified under ASD) and more recently also ADHD. He attends a mainstream provision in Scotland and accesses a wrap around at another school for three mornings per week. We have continuing issues of him coping in the classroom due to things such as background noise, high levels of excitement and energy and even when the teacher raises her voice to another pupil. To try and get the teaching staff to understand my son is an understatement, but less about how I feel and allow me to share my experiences and look at potential solutions. I have tried the following things which may or may not help:

He has an unused classroom which they have put lego and things that "focus" him in so that in times of anxiety he can be taken somewhere to chill out. I have also purchased an Alpha and Theta waves soft music CD which I also have at home so that they can play it and see if this calms him and almost drowns out the background noise. Lately they have been allowing him to leave a little earlier to avoid the school hometime rush where he gets so frustrated he kicks off or cannot co-ordinate himself to even put his jacket on and collect his bag.

At home we are trying to de-sensitise him with things he seems comfortable with. He likes rock music so at the end of a frustrating day at school we often put ACDC or Aerosmith on and all dance around the house with him as he feels this noise allows him to drown out the everyday background noise irritations and provides him with temporary relief. I also on the way to school allow him to have a screaming session with me in the car to as he says, "get rid of his bad energy". The wrap around seems to provide him with a small group of pupils in a more relaxed setting with some good routine. This setting and the care and attention of the staff who want to work and understand him I feel are the most effective people in his life. His Taxi driver Margaret who takes him to this provision is also a brilliant help as she works in a library and every day takes out a book on his focal topic "star wars" which allows him to then as he travels absorb himself into hid world and thus relieves his anxiety and takes away the car noise focus. I am trying not to create rigid routines at home as much as I used to do as real life is not like this and changes constantly. He seems to be getting better at adapting, so I am thinking that as he grows older his skills of adaptation will get better. One major thing I found he really thrives in is swimming and in particular in diving and being underwater (where presumably noise is thwarted or muffled to a large extent). To this end I have enrolled at a local swimming pool where I can take him on a one to one or with just one friend, where he can play and feel that people are not judging him. Also I have volunteered at his local Youth Club on a friday night at the school where he has the issues of sensory overload. It is a great way for him to play in a setting with his school friends in high noise and excitement but in a good way, and funnily enough he copes fantastically well. Lately he has told me he gets embarassed with me being there so as the club is split into two hourly sessions of craft and then sport, we have agreed I go into the one he is not in and visa versa. The fact that he knows I am always in the building and that he can leave the room and walk round to see me in one of the classrooms is enough for him to have enough confidence to cope with the session, which to date has been fantastically positive. By making friends here this means his class friends see H as we see him, which is a beautiful and talented, kind and caring little boy. I also allow his class friends (some of whom have been frightened by him through his aggresive outbursts) to ask me questions and tell me about H and how they feel. I can then explain that he does not mean to behave like this and suggest ways they can help him stay calm in the class and help him by talking about his focal topic of interest. One girls mum came up to me the other day and said her little girl is not frightened anymore of my son, which is great. Hope this all helps. To the girl who does not want to wear earmuffs - like one direction who wear in ear pieces when they are singing, there are lots of skin coloured ones which you can be fitted for. This may be a good way of shutting off the noise and also being accepted by your peers. If you have something that all professional singers have then this would actually be cool and fashionable. I was a professional singer and they take a little getting used to but then you can put music through them or just use them as noise blockers. Have a word with your music teacher to see if they can get some made for you through their music budget - this may be possible! Good luck.

#15 Lyndalou


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Posted 27 January 2013 - 08:48 PM

Just pointing out that this thread is from 2005 so no longer applies to OP.

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