What are sensory regulation tools
Sensory regulation strategies are useful tools to help individuals in regulating their emotions, calm down, or to increase their alertness when they need to. Sensory inputs heavily impact the central nervous system, some can be calming and some can be alerting therefore we can use different sensory inputs to aid our emotional regulation; for example, when we are anxious or angry. Strategies to support regulation can be offered through input through our different sensory systems. This includes Proprioception (deep pressure) Tactile, Vestibular, Taste, Auditory, Visual and Smell.
Why are sensory regulation tools helpful
They can be a useful tool to enable smooth transitions between activities and improve a child’s ability to attend to a task. All children need to learn to self-regulate in order to focus and be ready to learn and participate.
Many sensory regulation tools can be easily integrated into daily routines. OT’s can help form sensory diets for an individual child in order to meet their sensory regulation needs. Please refer to our sensory diet blog for more information on sensory diets.
Ways these can be implemented for the whole class
Of course, every child has individual needs and presences of strategies which can aid there regulation however it is important to offer the whole class opportunities to meet their regulations needs as a group. These could look like:
Movement breaks in order to offer vestibular and proprioceptive input. These could include a Simon Says game of jumping or spinning in a circle or watching a movement break video. Go Noodle are a great resource for this.
Calming videos – Working on our visual input, visually tracking images across a screen, watching images fall to the bottom of a screen or watching a screen saver.
Breathing activities – Changing the rhythm of your breathing can slow your heart rate and prompt the brain to relax and the body to rest. Breathing can also be a great way to offer proprioceptive deep pressure input. Try hand breathing or box breathing.
Build a calm corner – This can be a great tool for children to begin to develop their self-regulation skills in a safe space. A calm corner can offer opportunity for a wide range of sensory inputs and could include a wide range of sensory tools such as a weighted lap cushion, a glitter jar, headphones, a tent, and fidget toys. This can be a space for a child to go to when they begin to feel dysregulated and are unable to engage in learning tasks within a group environment.
Flexible or alternative seating- Wobble chairs, wobble cushions, standing desks, and floor sitting can provide vestibular input within the classroom environment, and promote the maintenance of regulation and attention.
Bands on chairs – Placing a TheraBand on the front two feet of a chair for a child to push against will offer proprioceptive input through their feet and may promote engagement for extended periods seated at a table.
Allowing fidget toys to be assess for each individual – Fidget tools are often considered toys for many children, however when used effectively can be a great regulation tool within the classroom. Fidgets should not distract a child or their peers but instead aid attention and engagement. Fidget tools can offer tactile and proprioceptive sensory input.
Headphones – Having these available for children to use to block out background noise and reduce auditory overstimulation can assist in reducing auditory distractions in busy classrooms.
Ways these can be implemented for an individual child
As every child’s needs are unique, talk to you’re the child’s OT for specific recommendations regarding regulation strategies in order to meet their individual regulation needs.
Please note always check with OT to provide appropriate sensory regulation tools and sensory stimuli.