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Sensory Processing Considerations for ABE Learners Susan Spear, PhD, OTR/L COABE March 18, 2014.

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Presentation on theme: "Sensory Processing Considerations for ABE Learners Susan Spear, PhD, OTR/L COABE March 18, 2014."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sensory Processing Considerations for ABE Learners Susan Spear, PhD, OTR/L COABE March 18, 2014

2 COABE focus: To meet 21st century demands what should take place in the 21st century adult education classroom and why? What does an adult education system built for student learning look like and why?

3 How does this topic connect? What is occupational therapy? History of occupational therapy in schools and with people in the “student” role

4 Let’s talk: What do you already know about sensory processing? What do you want to know?

5 Quiz: How many senses do we have? What are they?

6 Sight (Visual) Hearing (Auditory) Taste (Gustatory) Touch (Tactile) Smell (Olfactory) PLUS…….

7 Balance/Equilibrium (Vestibular) Joint stability/Position in space (Proprioception) ***External vs. Internal input***

8 Sensory Processing INPUTTHROUGHPUTOUTPUT

9 How does sensory processing connect to school performance? Cognitive skills start at level of brain arousal What factors do you think affect brain arousal?

10 Interaction of arousal and attention Attention Arousal

11 And arousal determines the effectiveness of the remaining hierarchy of brain functions: arousalattentionmemory information processing

12 Information Processing Memory Attention Arousal

13 Our brains seek stability in arousal and will adapt….somehow! How might this look in the classroom? ◦ chewing pen/pencil ◦ jiggling legs/feet ◦ leaning back in chair ◦ fidgeting with items in hands ◦ moving mouth/making noises/humming ◦ distracted/daydreaming ◦ taking lots of breaks ◦ others??

14 Sensory input can be manipulated to support effective arousal levels Overstimulated Stable Input should be calming, grounding: slow, rhythmic movement like rocking, pacing tends toward body flexion resistive, “heavy” work provides stabilizing input to joints and results in feelings of overall stability Understimulated Stable Input should be exciting, alerting: fast irregular movements tends toward body extension

15 What can this look like in the ABE classroom? Seating/postural adaptations ◦ Chairs with wheels or tennis balls on legs; therapy balls for seating; ◦ Standing, moving during class work; stretching/movement breaks Visual Stimulation/Lighting ◦ Moderate visual stimulation in room decor ◦ Provide areas with task lighting; allow hats to reduce fluorescent glare

16 What can this look like in the ABE classroom? Taste/oral input ◦ Mints, cinnamon candy = alerting ◦ Butterscotch candy = calming ◦ Chewing gum/coffee stirrers = proprioceptive input that can support focused attention Sound ◦ Noise-cancelling headphones to reduce distraction from ambient noise Touch ◦ Hand fidgets ◦ Chair push-ups Others?

17 Terminology Sensory: ◦ Preference ◦ Modulation ◦ Diet

18 Sensory self-assessment

19 Resources American Occupational Therapy Association, OT Innovations, Heller, S. (2003). Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World, Harper Perennial Contact information: ◦ Susan Spear


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