By: Esther Han OTR/L, Meghan Matusiak OTR/L, and Sara Sciarrino OTR/L
For children with sensory processing disorder (SPD), homework time can be challenging for a number of reasons. Staying on task, visually attending, and sitting for an extended period of time are some of the main expectations that a child with SPD may struggle with. This can lead to children rushing through homework, which can make handwriting appear sloppy or illegible.
Sensory strategies and techniques recommended by an occupational therapist can help your child stay in the just-right zone for learning. Try these tips and tricks listed below to make homework time a breeze:
- Wiggle cushions: this self-regulation tool can help with focus, attention, and calming during seated tasks. They promote movement and tactile input opportunities in a controlled way.
- Therapy ball: this provides a dynamic surface where kids can utilize vestibular and proprioceptive input (body and head movements) that stimulates the central nervous system.
- Not sitting: standing (whether at a countertop or placing paper on a vertical surface), lying on the floor, and kneeling are other ways homework can be done to provide proprioceptive input. Look for the position your child learns best in.
Types of paper
- Raised line: provides proprioceptive feedback when pencil marks hit the line.
- Highlighted: provides a visual border for where letters should start and stop.
- Smart Start: provides visual cues for proper letter formation
- Fidgets come in all different shapes, sizes, and textures to promote movement and tactile input for restless or busy hands.
Eliminating visual distractions
- For some children, looking at a crowded piece of paper can be very overwhelming and distracting. Try folding or covering homework assignments so your child can just see the problem or sentence he/she is currently working on.
- Both a great way to encourage a proper grasp on the pencil and receive tactile input that can help with regulation.
- Encourage your child to participate in heavy work and proprioceptive activities before, during, and after homework time to keep them in the just right zone (chair/wall pushups. bear crawls, jumping jacks, lifting heavy items, etc.).
- Try setting a goal for how long your child has to attend to his/her homework before having a break. Then, work to elongate this time period each time they are successful. Allowing your child to have a visual reference for how much time he/she has left can be very motivating.
If you would like some more ideas or want to hear how an occupational therapist can help your child, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us or leave a comment below.