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seat-based-sensory strategiesMy daughters have only been back in school a couple of days now and they are already counting down the weeks until Spring Break! It seems really far away right now and they are wondering how they can make it that long without a break from school. I remember that feeling – the January doldrums.  This time of year can be the most difficult time for teachers to keep kids on task in school.  Simple seat-based sensory strategies may be the answer!

Simple Seat-Based Sensory Strategies

The following are seat-based strategies we can teach our kids that will help them to stay seated and focused without drawing attention to themselves. I know some awesome teachers who take the time to teach these strategies to all of their students. That’s always my first choice for sensory strategies for a couple of reasons.

First, the teacher can provide verbal reminders and even list these strategies on the board or hang a poster of strategies on the wall to increase the likelihood of students remembering to use them.

And second, students are more likely to engage in sensory strategies if they don’t feel singled out in any way and they know that everyone benefits from these. But even if that doesn’t happen, these are simple strategies parents can teach their own kids or teachers and therapists can teach individual kids who will benefit.

Desk Stretches

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Grab one side of the back of the chair with both hands and twist your torso as far as possible in that direction. Repeat on the other side.



Finger Pulls

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Hook the index fingers together and pull for three seconds. Repeat with each set of fingers.





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Attach a 5-inch strip of adhesive velcro underneath the desk for students to rub with their fingers. Most kids like the soft-loop velcro but some prefer the more prickly side – either one will do the trick.



Pressure Push

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First sit up straight and pull your belly-button toward your spine. Then clasp hands together and push firmly down through the top of the head. Alternatively, push flat palms together in front of chest as firmly as possible.



Chair Push Ups

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Place hands on each side of chair and straighten arms to lift your behind off the chair. Repeat 10 times.



Water Bottles

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My personal favorite are [easyazon-link asin=”B007OX9X9K” locale=”us”]Camelbak water bottles[/easyazon-link] (found in sporting goods stores). These require you to bite the straw gently while sucking against a resistive valve. This provides a lot of organizing oral input. Encourage student to keep a water bottle on his or her desk at all times.


Gum or Peppermints

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Studies show gum and mints enhance focus. Unfortunately, gum is often against the rules. If possible, encourage schools to relax the rules, especially for teens.



Change Position

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Simply turn the chair around to straddle it or turn it sideways for awhile. These positions require different postural muscles and therefore can be effective in “waking up” the brain.



Dots and Squeezes

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Make a “dot” in left palm with opposite thumb then gently squeeze left wrist with right hand. Do a series of “squeezes” as right hand travels up left arm. Repeat on other side.



Ear Massage

Starting at the top of each ear, gently massage between thumb and index finger down to the bottom of each earlobe.

Motivate Kids Using Rewards

Even though these strategies are almost always helpful, we have to remember that students don’t mind being off-task as much as we mind them being off-task. Therefore, motivators are usually needed. Find a way to reward a student for using sensory strategies to stay on task.

From teachers, appropriate rewards may include a piece of gum, a classroom privilege like choosing the background music, or a “fidget” toy to keep at the desk ([easyazon-link asin=”B0019IAZ3Y” locale=”us”]sticky hands[/easyazon-link], [easyazon-link asin=”B003L8M916″ locale=”us”]squeeze balls[/easyazon-link]).

As parents, we are unable to see our kids use strategies like these at school, but we can have our kids tell us what strategies they use each day, follow up with the teacher, or simply reward them for using sensory strategies to improve focus during homework time.

Remember – these strategies work for adults in the workplace too! Try them out for yourself this week and see if you are more on-task!