7 Tips for Talking to Your Child’s Teacher About Sensory Processing Issues

By Amanda Morin

When your child has sensory processing issues, it’s important to talk with his teacher about how they affect him. Knowing exactly what your child struggles with allows the teacher to find ways to help him 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 her to put informal supports in place as soon as possible. It also lets her show your child that she understands and supports him.

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 teacher’s perspective.

When you meet with the teacher, ask if she has experience with sensory processing issues. That can make the conversation more comfortable. She may have taught kids with these issues and know strategies to help. Be prepared to explain the challenges if the teacher doesn’t have this experience, however.

Consider bringing information on skills that are impacted by sensory processing issues. You can also suggest that she speak with the special education teacher or occupational therapist for additional insight.

3. Be specific about how your child’s issues impact him.

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 her to know, too. It can also help to share specifics, like if he has trouble staying seated or if fire drills make him panic.

4. Share strategies that work for your child.

Let the teacher know about the strategies that have worked at home and in the classroom. Perhaps you have a system worked out with your child that helps him 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 the teacher’s suggestions for new strategies, too.

5. Discuss his strengths and interests, too.

Sharing your child’s strengths, talents and interests is as important as sharing what’s difficult for him. It can give the teacher a sense of what motivates your child and ways to connect with him. The teacher can also use the information as she thinks about strategies to help him 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 teacher is familiar with your child’s IEP or 504 plan, if he has one. Provide her with a copy and ask her to look over the accommodations. (Be sure to talk about equipment your child may be using, too, like seat cushions or headphones.)

Let the teacher 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 do what he can to meet school expectations, with the support he needs to do it.

7. Ask how you can help.

Even just asking shows the teacher that you want to be part of a team to help your child succeed in school. It can make her feel supported and let her know that you want to partner with her. It also opens lines of ongoing communication. The teacher 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 her.