When kids have sensory processing issues, it’s important to talk with their teacher about how this affects them. Knowing exactly what your kids struggle with allows the teacher to find ways to help them be successful in the classroom. Here are tips for explaining sensory processing issues to teachers.
1. Meet with the teacher early in the school year.
The ideal time to talk about your child’s issues is either right before or right after school begins. Meeting early makes the teacher aware of school situations that might be challenging and strategies that have worked in the past. That allows them to put informal supports in place as soon as possible. It also lets teachers show kids that they understand and support them.
Even if it’s later in the school year, don’t hesitate to request a meeting. Sharing information is important no matter when you do it.
2. Ask for the teachers’ perspective.
When you meet with teachers, ask them if they have any experience with sensory processing issues. That can make the conversation more comfortable. They may have taught kids with these issues and know strategies to help. Be prepared to explain the challenges if teachers don’t have this experience, however.
Consider bringing information on skills that are impacted by sensory processing issues. You can also suggest that they speak with the teacher or occupational therapist for additional insight.
3. Be specific about the impact of your child’s challenges.
Sensory processing issues look different for every child. The teacher needs to know if your child is sensitive to sounds, touch, or visual input. If your child has motor skills issues or is prone to sensory meltdowns, that’s important for teachers to know, too. It can also help to share specifics, like if they have trouble staying seated or if fire drills make them panic.
4. Share strategies that work for your child.
Let teachers know about the strategies that have worked at home and in the classroom. Perhaps you have a system worked out that helps your child cope with clothing issues. Maybe you worked with last year’s teacher on strategies to help your child deal with school assemblies. Or maybe having information ahead of time makes field trips easier for your child. Be open to suggestions for new strategies.
5. Discuss their strengths and interests, too.
Sharing your child’s strengths, talents, and interests is as important as sharing what’s difficult. It can give teachers a sense of what motivates your child and ways to connect. Teachers can also use the information as they think about strategies to help the child in the classroom.
You can even download a 3×3 card to share with the teacher. It’s a great way to share information about your child’s strengths and challenges.
6. Share information about current accommodations.
Don’t assume your child’s teachers are familiar with your child’s or (if they have one). Provide teachers with a copy and ask them to look over the . Be sure to talk about equipment your child may be using, too, like seat cushions or headphones.
Let teachers know you’re available to talk about how the accommodations make a difference. At the same time, make it clear that you fully expect your child to meet school expectations, with the support they need to do it.
7. Ask how you can help.
Just asking how you can help shows teachers that you want to be part of a team to help your child succeed in school. It can make them feel supported and let them know that you want to partner with them. It also opens lines of ongoing communication. Teachers may be more willing to reach out to you before problems get big and hard to manage. Be sure to find out the best time and method for following up with them.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.