Children with ASD could use earmuffs/ ear defenders to help to deal with unpleasant sensory auditory stimuli. Perhaps your school puts on a regular assembly where the whole school attends, perhaps the child doesn’t enjoy break time in the yard. This potentially loud and overwhelming environment may be too much for some children to cope with. As a result, ear defenders may help to dull the noise surrounding the child and provide comfort for them at that time.
Many children with autism benefit from holding small balls that they can squeeze as a way of releasing stress. They may also be useful as fidget tools to help children who may find it difficult to focus or sit still. Also, as these balls come in a variety of levels of firmness. As a result, they can also help children to work on their fine motor skills and develop their grip strength.
These are very useful for quickly recording certain behaviours. Perhaps your trying to monitor the number of times a certain child plugs their ears, maybe you’re trying to tally the number of times a certain child elf-regulates through stimming, or alternatively you’re just trying to do a head count while on a school trip. Click counters can be kept on your clipboard, in your pocket, or on your lanyard to allow you to easily and quickly count the behaviours.
Therapy putty (also known as Theraputty) is an effective tool for children with special needs to practice and develop their fine motor skills as well as gain strength as they progress through the levels of firmness. Therapy putty was designed to meet a wide range of hand/arm strengthening needs by practising squeezing, stretching, twisting or pinching.
Focusing and maintaining attention may be difficult for a child in your class for various reasons, perhaps this means that they’ve a hard time staying seated (in school, while eating meals, while doing homework etc.). By placing this stretchy foot band around the legs of their chair, the child can kick, bounce and fidget their legs while also working on their gross motor skills while remaining in their seat.
The ultimate aim of all sensory chairs and fidget cushions is to help children (or adults) with their attention and focus. Children who move about may be trying to help keep themselves regulated and/or alert. These seats (which are filled with air) creates a moving surface for the child to sit on which in turn will enable some users to stay more alert.
Fidget toys are useful in helping children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) with self-regulation. Fidget toys can help manage anxiety, improve attention, the ability to focus, or even help children calm down when dealing with a surge of emotions such as extreme anger or frustration.
We use Velcro on everything, from display boards, to our Aistear rota, to matching games, to visual timetables, to first/then (or first/next) boards, to games. Velcro is a must have in the classroom, plus, peeling Velcro cards off one another also promotes fine motor development.
By practising basic life skills such as tying, buttoning, snapping, pushing, pulling, buckling, zipping and lacing not only are will the child be developing their fine motor skills but the child may also be creating memorable links between the skills boards and real-life situations. These boards may then also promote the child to try and gain confidence in familiar tasks such as getting dressed, fastening shoes and closing their school bag and coat.
These adapted scissors allow you to help the child learn the cutting motion, while the long loop on the handle allows for a firmer hold and grip on the scissors while preventing the scissors from twisting in your hand.
Transitions may prove to be difficult for children with SEN. A timer is a great way of showing children how long they left to complete a task/ relax until it is time to move on to the next activity. Timers also allow children to see (and hear) how long is left with what they’re doing until they hear the beep to move on. Timers can also be used for group work to keep children motivated and on task.
What do you use for children with SEN that you find particularly useful? Please let us know if there’s anything that we’ve missed!