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Added October 11, 2004

Teaching Children with Sensory Motor Integration Deficits

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Sensory motor integration deficits are fairly common in both children and adults. The following is a list of tips for teachers who have children with sensory processing disorders.

General Strategies

  • Have the child line up in the back of the line to minimize physical contact with others.
  • Don’t have the child wait in line for long periods of time.
  • Permit the child to wear a sweater or jacket indoors. This may help to relax the child.
  • Keep enough space between children so that they are not close enough to touch each other.
  • When sitting on the floor, use markers or masking tape to define the child’s personal space.
  • Allow the child to choose where he sits during story time.
  • Don’t force a child who is showing fear or distress to participate in activities.
  • Place the child’s desk along the side of the room outside of traffic.
  • Orient the child’s desk so that he has a good view of where others are moving.

For Children who Have Sensitivity to Touch

Many children who are sensitive to light touch prefer firm pressure. This helps to relax them. The following tips will help them:
  • Never touch the child from behind.
  • When you do touch the child, approach the child from the front to give a visual cue that light touch is coming.
  • When touching the child, use firm pressure on the back or shoulder rather than a gentle touch.
  • Seat the child next to quiet calm children.
  • Some children are disturbed by the hardness of the chair. Allow the child to sit on a pillow on cushion.

Specific Advice For Children Who Need Extra Sensory Input

Some children need sensory input to help them to stay focused. Here are some things you can do to help these children.
  • Allow the child to sit on an air cushion pillow that is slightly filled with air. This allows for movement without the child leaving his desk.
  • Encourage the child to run or climb during recess.
  • Give the child tasks requiring sustained repetitive movements, such as washing the desks or erasing the blackboard.
  • Have these children move heavy objects like rearranging books or desks.
  • Give the child opportunities to move around by making him your messenger. Let him run notes to other teacher or to get things the class needs.
  • Never discipline the child by taking away recess privileges or physical education.
Some children do better if they are able to stimulate their mouths or hands. Here are some things you can do to help these children.
  • Let them keep a water bottle at their desks.
  • Let them chew on something like a straw or coffee stick.
  • Let them keep a small squeeze ball in their pocket.

Some Things to Remember

  • Children with multiple disabilities often have sensory motor integration deficits.
  • These children may have difficulty with motor planning and knowing the position of their body in space.
  • These children often have poor balance.
  • Being in crowded places and situations makes these children anxious and uncomfortable.
Children with sensory processing disorders experience the world differently. They may have extreme discomfort or pain from sensations that other people might find pleasant. This is a functional disorder. Remember it is not the child’s fault, nor can he control the problem.


Anthony Kane, MD

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