Does your child seem to learn differently from other children? Perhaps your child is the type of individual who will learn not by thought and abstract educational concepts but, instead, by the use of sensory learning. For children with learning disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders, ASD, sensory learning is common and, in most cases, necessary for academic achievement.
Individuals with ASD often experience a heightened sensitivity with one or more sensory system. When in a classroom setting, these children often experience great difficulty in learning, especially when a sensory system is intensified in some manner. Therefore, if you find your child has difficulty in focusing and concentrating, you may want to speak with the school about accommodations for your child as a “sensory learner”.
Children with sensory instructional needs often develop a condition known as “dysfunction in sensory integration”. When they are unable to process the environment around them, especially at school, these same children with develop behavioral disorders that lead to academic failure, in most cases. Often, they want to learn by their senses and will seek out educational and academic experiences that will stimulate their sense of touch, smell, sound and sight. Poor behavior often results in negative attention which may stimulate this need.
Academic modifications for children with sensory disorders may involve a much smaller classroom setting where they are involved in a more hands-on teaching experience. For some children, however, the hands-on experience can lead to a negative reaction to the senses which only leads to further poor academic performance and behavior. As a parent, it is important to identify if your child is a sensory learner and then determine what senses, when stimulated, lead to a positive response and what senses, when stimulated, lead to a negative response. By balancing the positive with educational experiences, and avoiding negative events, your child’s sensory learning experience will be far more effective.
In addition, children who engage in poor behavior should be instructed to get involved in a sensory type of punishment. For example, when speaking out in class or being disruptive, the child may need to use their heightened senses as part of their punishment – like running outside if the child needs light and sound as a sensory learning experience. Finding the right balance in your child’s sensory learning is what will keep your child’s academic challenges under control and give them the right success to transition into adulthood and the normal working environment.
Sources: Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 13(2), 67-70.