It's the standard in every classroom - brightly coloured, diverse and interesting displays of children's work on each wall. I know...my mum was a teacher, and she spent ages planning topics, updating and refreshing her displays.
Nothing much seems to have changed since my mum's day...every classroom I've been in recently has been the same. One was particularly well-decorated. The curtains over huge windows had large geometric shapes on them, there were things suspended from the ceiling, and I couldn't even find the door handle, there was so much stuck to the door!
While such dedication to children's development is to be commended, as are the celebrations of their abilities, teachers, please spare a thought for the impact of your displays on your students with sensory processing difficulties.
Sensory processing is something we all have to do in order to function. In a busy classroom, little brains have to filter out the background or unimportant sounds, sights and touch to be able to focus and get on with their work effectively. Sit for a minute yourself and listen for background sounds - the clock ticking, tapping of pencils, rattle of pipes, voices in the distance, hum of lights, and so on. Did you notice them before you actively paid attention to them? Probably not. Your brain has learned to filter them out so you can concentrate. But, imagine NOT being able to do that? Imagine hearing every sound at the same volume? How would you know what to pay attention to, or what's important?
This leads to fatigue, poor concentration, distractability, which in turn, contributes to poor behaviour and performance.
So, what can you do about it? Well, there are several things you can do to maximise your students' chances of coping in a busy sensory environment:
Sometimes the pressure comes from external sources - one teacher I know was criticised during an inspection for not having enough on display. Clearly the inspector had no understanding of the sensory challenges facing those children.
And it's not always possible to implement big changes, particularly if space is difficult to use flexibly and budgets are increasingly tight. But a few small changes can make a big difference to a child who struggles with sensory processing.
If you'd like to understand more about sensory processing challenges and how to help, Red Robin Therapy can provide training.
Clare is an occupational therapist, a lifter of weights, a grandmother, a lover of dogs, pygmy goats, donkey, chickens and, of course, robins.