As my first book has been circulating different schools, therapy spaces, and homes throughout the world (eek!), I have been doing some serious thinking about how to show all kids, regardless of age, diagnosis, or type of classroom envrionment, how sensory and self-regulatory tools can be not only extremely helpful, but an everyday part of their classrooms and lives.
So, my fabulous co-worker and I donned weighted vests, grabbed different types of fidgets, glitter jars, noise reducing headphones, lap pads, and sun glasses. As I tentatively walked into a 1st grade integrated co-teaching class, I was sure that the kids would burst out laughing (we did look kind of silly, with all possible sensory tools on our bodies at once, and to top it off, we were THERAPISTS!); to my surprise, they hardly blinked an eye, and were pretty well versed into what each tool was. Most kids were extremely interested in touching and trying out the materials, but many were quick to say that they had a sensory area in their classroom. We stressed that these tools were not just for the boy in the red shirt, or the girl in the purple dress; they automatically chimed in: “The tools are for everyone!” At such a young age, they had the concept of universal design for learning down pat!
We reviewed “Anywhere Body Breaks” (for more information, please see my book, “The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control: Simple Stuff to Help Children Regulate their Emotions and Senses”-Jessica Kingsley Publishers, July 2014.). I shouldn’t have been surprised at that point that these tiny 1st graders were basically able to lead me in most of the small self- regulation exercises that I had reviewed with them the year before.
We made our rounds to different classes, with similar results.
I will, however, always think back to those small, sweet and innocent faces, who were able to not only school me in so much of what I, in collaboration with their amazing special and general education teachers had taught them the year before (based on my book in progress, at that point), but appreciate, accept, and be open to a diversity of tools in their classroom, being able to don a weighted vest or grab a fidget with as much ease as picking up the right type of pencil. This did my pediatric OT’s heart good.