As summer vacation comes to an end and school begins, many children find it hard to return to their school routines. This task may be even more difficult for children with sensory processing challenges.

Sensory processing refers to the ability to receive sensory information from the surrounding environment, combine it with internal sensory information from one’s own body, and process it into a coherent understanding of what is occurring in a given situation and what the appropriate response should be.

About five to 10 percent of young children exhibit significant behavioral and adaptive problems that are linked to difficulties in sensory processing. Returning to school after a long vacation can easily become an overwhelming experience. With this in mind, along with a few easy steps directed to control the classroom environment, parents and teachers can reduce potential frustration and help children with sensory processing challenges have an easier transition as they return to school.

  1. Make sure that all materials have an organized and labeled place where they belong.
  2. Limit the amount of extraneous visual materials hanging from the ceiling and on the walls.
  3. Make children’s schedules as predictable as possible.
  4. Discuss potential events before they occur to help children prepare for possibly overwhelming situations.
  5. Help young children make transitions between activities by creating theme songs.
  6. Help young children to become more organized by choosing for them a certain color for each subject.
  7. Help children feel more secure by having a consistent place to store their materials once they have completed a task.
  8. Limit extraneous auditory input from the hallway by closing the classroom door.
  9. Seat the child who is easily distracted further away from open windows or doors.
  10. As much as possible, give children an advance notice before the occurrence of loud noises.

Creating an optimal classroom environment for children with sensory processing challenges can have a great impact on their success during the school year. In addition, parents should make sure that their children with sensory processing challenges receive the assistance of qualified health-care professionals, including licensed occupational therapists, who can devise regimens that support children’s growth and development.