Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sensory Strategies in Autism Education

One of the challenges of educating students with autism spectrum disorders is accommodating their sensory needs. Balancing too little vs. too much input is sometimes beyond educators who do not have the experience of teaching children with autism. The need for this kind of specialized experience is why many parents prefer their children attend a specialized autism school in New York rather than public school.

Too Much Input

Children with autism can be overwhelmed by sensory input. They might be mesmerized by brightly colored objects, run from a room when it gets to loud, or refuse to eat foods with certain textures. An autism school classroom is set up to minimize the amount of extraneous inputs that will distract students.

Carpet and soft furniture absorb excess noise. If a loud noise is coming, teachers warn the students so they are not startled. Classrooms have fewer bright posters and use shades on the windows to regulate the amount of light. Quiet areas allow students to get away from things when they start to become overwhelmed. Teachers wear less perfume or cologne. These steps allow students to focus on the sensory input that is important without having to filter out irrelevant information.

Too Little Input

At the other end of the spectrum, students with autism may have muted senses so crave strong inputs. They may lick toys, particularly anything with a strong taste such as modeling clay. They constantly touch or even bite themselves. Fidgety students crave the inputs that come from movement.

Autism schools have a variety of strategies to provide inputs in a safe manner that won't interfere with other activities. Weighted vests or textured chairs help students who need strong tactile inputs. Rocking chairs allow a student to move while still paying attention to class. Brightly colored tape helps a student locate the boundaries of a desk or the carpet used for circle time. Through all of this, a structured schedule helps the child with autism function smoothly.

Finding Equilibrium

Balancing the needs of an individual student with the needs of the class is a critical element in creating a plan for educating an autistic child. If Child A needs strong auditory input but Child B is oversensitive to sound, the needs of both children must be met. A solution in this case could be to let Child A use an FM system and headphones so the teacher's voice is louder, being careful of course the student does not turn the volume so high it endangers hearing, while not interfering with Child B.

Accommodation of opposing needs one reason an autism school in New York is better suited for ASD students then public school. These institutions already know strategies that have worked in the past and don't have to experiment to find the right solution.

Author is a freelance copywriter. For more information about a therapy school New York, please visit

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