Best practice tips for sensory

Best practice tips are strategies that have been evaluated in other settings, target a relevant factor (such as a teaching style that lowers student anxiety), or is considered best practice by experts in the field.

Be aware of students' sensory sensitivities

You could find out what colours, textures, sounds, or movements the student prefers or dislikes. You can support a student by working out which activities seem to most upset or bother them.

A health professional such as an occupational therapist can help provide more support.

Consider uniform

Consider whether adjustments need to be made to the student’s uniform. Schools can work with students and parents/carers to agree on another option.

This may be safe clothing that looks like the uniform but uses a different fabric or cut. The key thing is that they can participate in their learning.

Have a safe back-up activity

A safe activity that a student can do if things become too difficult can be helpful. The activity could be used when the student needs a break or time to calm down.

Allow the use of noise-reducing headphones

Noise-reducing headphones may help if students find the classroom too loud.

Provide choices

Some students may find loud noises or specific textures distressing. If you know that a student may be distressed by an activity, tell them beforehand. Consider offering them different materials to work with or a different activity.

Provide a quiet area

Classrooms, playgrounds, bag or locker areas, and toilets or changing rooms can be very noisy. Consider providing a quiet area that a student can go to if upset by noise or other sensory input. If hand dryers are distressing to a student, consider ways in which this can be managed (for example, recommending that they use the toilets just before or after break times). 

Consider allocation of bag pegs or pigeon holes or lockers – positions on the end or in the quieter areas may be best suited to students who are distressed by loud noise.

Allow time to calm down

Some students might need to take time out from the group and have more breaks to calm themselves when they get overwhelmed. Let them do this whenever they need to, and provide a safe space for them to retreat to. 

Sometimes students might become angry and upset and the reason for this might not be clear. A break and a safe place and time to calm down may help them. It can be helpful to have a clear code of behaviour that is known up front and put somewhere that all students can see.