In many of my teaching strategy programs, I talk about ways to help students, especially students with sensory or attention issues, focus more successfully in the classroom.
Occupational therapists might recommend a therapy disk or cushion for these kids, because what they really need is just enough movement to keep them calm. A less expensive solution, that accomplishes the same goal for many kids, is a simple dollar store beach ball. Just blow it up with only a few breaths of air and place it on the student’s chair. Your student will be able to wiggle just enough to keep them calm and focused.
After presenting a workshop in Farmington, NH, where I talked about this idea, I was contacted by Sarah Manter, one of the teachers who attended my program, with a question. Sarah asked if I had any ideas to deal with the squeaking noises that some of her secondary students were making when sitting on the balls.
I offered a few suggestions involving carpet squares, and skid stoppers used for rugs, but Sarah had a much more “real life” solution. Sarah said, “I kind of put it back on them. I explained that there was a difference between a little squeaking with motion and purposely trying to make “farting” noises. Some [students] decided they didn’t care for them at all. A lot of them have opted to use them as back cushions instead.”
The great thing about Sarah’s response is that it validates a belief that I also share in my programs. Most students, when given the ground rules and the choice, will make the choice that works best for them, and you.
Another idea that I share in my programs is the use of pliable plastic bracelets, either the “Livestrong” style or spiral bracelets for kids whose sensory needs require them to have something to do with their hands. Sarah also tried this strategy with good effect. She described her experience; “The most popular thing is actually the stretchy key chain bracelets. One parent messaged me that it worked so well, she went out and bought some for home. The problem is, they like them so much, they honestly forget they’re wearing them and walk away with them. Now I’m down to 9 in my classroom. I think I might need a sign at my door like at the butterfly house at the zoo. “STOP! Check to see if you have stretchy bracelets on your person!”
It’s always great to hear from real teachers sharing their experiences with these great strategies and ideas. Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to share these stories with me so that I can share them with you!
For more information on differentiation strategies to reach ALL learners, see
Susan Fitzell’s NEW book, Special Needs in the General Classroom, 500+ Teaching Strategies for Differentiating Instruction.
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New seminar with this book – Available May 1, 2017
Differentiation Strategies to Reach ALL Learners in the Inclusive Classroom