As a special education teacher, you know that every student is unique and has different needs when it comes to learning and processing information. Some students may require extra support in the form of sensory tools to help them focus and stay engaged in the classroom.
In a self-contained classroom, it can be especially helpful to have a range of sensory tools available to support the diverse needs of your students. Here is the ultimate checklist of sensory tools that can be helpful for special education teachers in the self-contained classroom:
Weighted blankets or lap pads:
Weighted blankets and lap pads can provide a calming, grounding sensation for students who struggle with anxiety or sensory processing disorders. These tools can help students feel more secure and focused, which can improve their ability to learn.
Fidget toys, such as squeeze balls or spinning tops, can provide a subtle outlet for students who struggle with impulsivity or have a hard time sitting still. These toys can help students release excess energy and improve their ability to focus on tasks.
For students who are easily distracted by noise or have auditory processing disorders, noise-canceling headphones can be a valuable tool. These headphones can help students block out distractions and focus on their work
Chewable jewelry, such as pendants or bracelets, can provide a discrete way for students who need to chew or fidget to satisfy their sensory needs. These tools can be especially helpful for students who have oral motor disorders or who struggle with anxiety.
Resistance bands can provide a low-impact, high-energy outlet for students who need to move while they learn. These bands can be used to stretch, wiggle, or do simple exercises, which can help students stay focused and energized.
Sensory boards are a great way to provide a variety of sensory input to students who need it. These boards can be used to engage students' sense of touch, sight, and sound through activities such as pressing buttons, sliding beads, or playing with textures.
Light boxes are a useful tool for students who struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or other mood disorders. These boxes provide a source of bright, natural light that can help improve mood and reduce stress.
Therapeutic putty can provide a quiet, discreet way for students to strengthen their hand muscles and improve fine motor skills. These putties come in a range of resistances and can be used to do a variety of hand exercises.
Vibrating pillows can provide a calming, soothing sensation for students who have difficulty falling asleep or who struggle with anxiety. These pillows can be used during quiet time or at bedtime to help students relax and unwind.
Aromatherapy diffusers can be a helpful tool for students who respond well to scents. Essential oils such as lavender and peppermint can help promote relaxation and focus, respectively.
Another way to support your special needs students in their sensory processing is to provide visual cues. I have a PDF chuck full of different visual aids that you can use in the classroom. You can find those Visual Aids here.
Using sensory tools in the self-contained classroom can be a valuable way to support the diverse needs of your students. By having a range of tools available, you can help your students stay focused, engaged, and successful in their learning. You can also give parents information on how they can support their needs at home. Here is another blog on meeting sensory needs at home.