The Smart Kids Sensory Survival Kit - School Edition is an Autism Community Store Exclusive. The pencil-box-sized kit is packed full of simple sensory tools to help our smart kids filter distractions, focus, and identify and communicate their feelings when a situation becomes stressful.
Focusing attention is a cognitively demanding task that depends on executive function mediated skills such as filtering distractions and controlling impulses.Focusing is difficult for all children, but if you have autism, ADHD or sensory issues, concentrating can be much harder. Many children with autism have highly sensitive sensory systems – clothing tags, a fold in a sock or the sound of the fluorescent lighting can prove unbearably distracting.
Here are some tips to help:
Reduce distractions. Give the child a quiet place to work, or provide them with sensory buffers such as noise-reducing headphones or ear plugs, colored glasses, light filters, etc. Make sure they are wearing comfortable clothing. Pressure vests can help some children focus by reducing anxiety, which leads to avoidance.
Meet sensory needs before asking a child to do hard work. Building in movement breaks will benefit all the students. Some individual’s sensory diets may require that they be allowed to request movement breaks during work time.
Provide sensory tools that allow for sensory input and appropriate, non-distracting movement while studying. This can include wiggle seats, bands around chair legs or desk legs, fidgets for the hands or pencils, and chewies for oral motor stimulation.
Practice belly breathing – deep, steady breathing slows the heart rate and clears the mind. Calming the body makes it easier for kids to confront challenging tasks.
Offer positive reinforcement and verbal praise when kids are able to settle down and focus rather than negativity and punishment when they are not. Over time, this patience will pay off in how children feel about school and themselves.