How to create a better classroom to meet children’s sensory needs


Meeting the sensory needs of all children in a classroom can be challenging for teachers. But when we do it well, students learn better and are less likely to communicate in a way that distracts others.

What do I need to consider?

Our brains can be simplified into three parts.

In the classroom you might have a range of ‘brains’ that utilize one or more of the three parts.

A typical brain

sees all three parts working well together. The child has adequate attention and independence skills, and is exploring the higher brain function.

An immature brain

is ready to start exploring the higher brain, but may need adult support to get started. This child may be anxious and need reassurance, time and patience.

A sensory dysfunctional brain

has difficulty communicating between the different parts. This brain may struggle to process sensory information, and may only function in the lower or mid-brain. This child will need specific adult support. Regulation may be easily overloaded and they may have poor attention skills and challenging behaviours.

How can I create an environment to support all children?

Safety is a top priority. Children are better able to regulate when they are safe and connected.

Pause for movement breaks. Often! Children’s focus and attention will improve.

Give a choice of seating. Pillows, standing desks, ball chairs, wobble seats and floor seats are all options.

Modify desks and chairs.

Provide sensory boxes.

Get children to run and jump on the spot.

Stop every so often for deep breathing or meditation exercises.

Stand on tip ties, stretch arms to the ceiling.

Chair, wall and table push-ups all help.

Get children to look up, down and sideways to rotate their heads.