Written by Shawna of Not The Former Things
Sensory Processing Disorder is actually to blame for our decision to homeschool in the first place.
My oldest son was in public school until third grade. Every single day was a battle for both of us.
For me, it looked like trying to get him to wear clothes that were allowed in the dress code. Socks alone were enough to make both of us cry every morning.
For him, it was an all day long onslaught of noise, smells, and lighting that I know now put him in an almost constant state of flight or flight.
We made the decision to homeschool in part, because sensory issues were so overwhelming for my son.
A year later, we learned about sensory processing disorder and it all began to add up. Moreover, once my son was home for a bit, he was able to share, in bits and pieces, what his school experience was like.
He could hear the sound of every single pencil writing in his 33-child classroom.
He smelled the bleach used to clean the cafeteria, making it impossible for him to eat his lunch.
The grass on his hands, doing push-ups at PE, stung so much he would cry.
The echo of children, lining up in the corridors and classrooms was so intense, he spent most of his time finding ways to keep his ears covered.
I had no idea how bad it was for him. Honestly, ten years ago, most of the literature about sensory processing disorder questioned if it was even a real thing. Not one professional ever mentioned it, medically, therapeutically or educationally.
But when we began to homeschool my son, I could see the impact of sensory overload for my son more clearly.
It has changed the way we learn.
Sensory Processing Disorder And Our Homeschool
Here are just a few of the ways we accommodate my son’s sensory sensitivities in our learning each day:
My favorite part of homeschooling in the beginning was not having to cajole my son into wearing school approved footwear. I am not kidding.
The battle for socks and shoes each day was replaced by Crocs. Crocs for play. Crocs for church. Last month, my son even chose to wear Crocs to his prom. It’s a beautiful thing, not to worry or have a letter sent home again about obeying the dress rules.
Both of my children struggle with clothing in general. As such, we have a lot of soft t-shorts and elastic waist shorts. It doesn’t matter anymore.
Holding a pencil is excruciating for my son due to tactile sensitives. While we have worked to help him better function with this task through occupational therapy, the truth is, it’s awful for him almost all the time.
The good news is because we homeschool, when it is time to learn, he can use any method of written communication he likes. Sometimes, it means he is writing with a larger, less tactile marker. Most of the time, it means he types. What matters most is what he is learning, not if he is using the required #2 pencil.
In addition, my son has not had to do push-ups on the grass since his school days. There are far less uncomfortable ways for him to exercise at home.
This was perhaps the easiest element of my son’s sensory processing issues to accommodate. Simply reducing the number of children from 33 in a classroom and 300 in a cafeteria, to two at our dining room table has made all the difference in the world.
As my son has gotten older, he has been able to take in more and more noise. In fact, he now participates in a hybrid program at a local private school that does get a little noisy sometimes. Because he has the chance to rest his ears at home, he is better able to tolerate it there, and continue to learn.
Sensory Activities and Input
Perhaps one of the best things about homeschooling a child with sensory issues is that you can include sensory activities and input to help your child stay regulated.
I incorporate sensory activities into our learning as much as possible for both of my boys.
I find it makes all the difference in their level of engagement and retention in what we are learning. It also helps them stay focused and regulated as their bodies are getting what they need throughout our days.
(You can find more information on the types of activities we use as part of our homeschool everyday HERE.)
Homeschooling a child with sensory processing disorder brings its challenges to be sure. I firmly believe it is an excellent choice, however, for a child struggling with sensory overload.
We cannot expect a child to learn when he is overwhelmed with noise, lighting, smells, and textures. Homeschooling allows us to accommodate our children in ways that help them both physically and academically.
Are you homeschooling a child with sensory processing disorder? How does it effect learning in your home?
If you enjoyed this post, check out Jamie’s newly released book, Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy.