School is a sensory nightmare; parents can solve the problem

When it comes to sensory input, change the environment rather than the person. That’s why I made a castle for myself to sleep in. Once I understood my sensory integration dysfunction, I noticed I adjust my environment for  sensory needs all the time, unconsciously — the castle is one of many places where I make sure the light is yellow.

The majority of kids with autism have sensory issues, and a classroom is a difficult place to get sensory needs met. Kids are much more likely to get their sensory needs met at home, where they can control the environment. (Pre-emptive strike: an office is a place that has very clear sensory limits and guidelines. A classroom is much more wild because of the kid factor.)

My memories of school are largely focused on avoiding difficult sensory situations. I skipped lunch because of chaos of a hundred kids getting lunch simultaneously. I walked two miles home instead of taking the bus because I couldn’t stand still to wait for it. I ditched gym class because of the lockers slamming.

In hindsight I spent way more energy managing my sensory environment than I did learning school lessons. Not that anything has changed: I think about my balancing my sensory needs vs. my kids’ needs all the time, but it helps a lot that I have way more control over my environment as an adult.

This is an example of why a lot of autism researchers say we should change the environment instead of the person.

2 replies
  1. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I remember Kindergarten, sort of. What I remember most is trying to find ways to get away from the scrum of the other kids. Looking at it now through a lens of autism, I was clearly trying to avoid being overwhelmed.

    My teacher’s husband built this wooden box with a steering wheel from a 1963 Ford Falcon sticking out of it. Sitting at that box steering that wheel was my favorite thing to do, because it was a solitary activity in a relatively quiet corner of the room.

    My biggest sensory issue is tags in shirts, however. Oh my god, they are made of hot wire.

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      I love that you wrote a whole blog post about removing tags! I have cut out so many pages and then ruined the shirt. I see I need more patience… and maybe the right tool.



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