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Teaching to Meet His Senses

“He’s like a fart in a frying pan”

“A what?!”

“A fart in a frying pan… You know, he goes pop! over here, and pop! over there and he’s all over the place, popping up and down. Sit, stand, sit, stand.”

“OHHHH! Okay I get it!”

This may seem like a rather unorthodox conversation to you, but it is an actual conversation I had with the regular ed kindergarten teacher whose class my then 5 year old special needs son attended for half of his kindergarten day.  I really did get it. And I wasn’t offended.

My son is now 10, and has been home for school for the past 3 years, but his early special ed experiences did give me some insight into what worked– and doesn’t work— with public education.  Sensory seeking kids do not fit into a public educational system without A LOT of accommodations.  Generally, schools don’t even try to accommodate. This was our experience anyway.

Coming home to homeschool was freedom for him, but created a new, weird learning curve for me.  The boy who simply CAN NOT stay seated, but doesn’t have ADD, can frustrate me, make me just a little bit crazy, and has forced me to become infinitely creative.  Here are some ideas which just might work, and just might help, for your child who seeks sensory input throughout the day.

Heavy Work: Have him lift something heavy. The coffee table if he’s 5. Sacks of potting soil if he’s older.  Junior high age?  Let him jack the car up and release.  Do push-ups, with something on his back if he’s older.  A small sibling can sit on his back if he’s in high school.  Give him something heavy to push, pull, lift, or drag and his sensory system will ping in delight. He will probably be much calmer afterward, too.

To Stay Seated: If you must keep your child seated for some writing or other thing that requires it, try using a throw pillow on her lap.  My son knows now that he can go get one and put it on his lap while he’s seated. It isn’t magical, and isn’t heavy. It’s just a reminder that I need his rear touching his chair. When he goes to stand up he encounters this minor barrier and thinks (sometimes out loud) “I need to stay in my chair!”  It works.

Use Movement To Memorize Things or Practice Facts: You can purchase a mini-trampoline at W/Mart for under $20.  Around our house, we practice math facts, skip counting, Spanish vocabulary, and work on our Scripture Memory System while the boys take turns jumping on the mini-tramp.  It works! It engages their bodies and their minds at the same time.  It is particularly a good thing when the sensory system settles into slug mode, and the eyes begin to droop.  It wakes up his senses and his brain, and he’s ready to GO afterward.

If you have a child who seeks sensory input, get creative. Offer him or her ways to get the input that will enable them to continue participating in your school day. Both of you will be a LOT happier! :)


Note: If you are the homeschooling parent of a special needs child, I would love to have you tell your story here. Please use the contact form to drop me a note.

Thank you so much to Dawn for guest posting and sharing your story.

14 thoughts on “Teaching to Meet His Senses”

    • I’m glad! I told that to a mom one time and she was OFFENDED that a teacher had said that to me… but she totally didn’t get it! When the initial.. whaa? wore off and what she’d said was clarified, I busted out laughing! It really was funny and SO true!

    • AJ you can have a sensory profile done by an Occupational Therapist, and it can tell you a lot about your kiddo! When you know what they are sensitive to (or can’t feel) it will help you better to get on his level.

  1. Thanks so much for this post. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one dealing with those type of sensory issues. And you are absolutely right, public school has no idea how to handle it.

    • Hi Kim,

      Thank you for visiting. It is nice to know when you find out that you are not alone in dealing with your struggles (in this case sensory issues).


  2. I get it! Though I’d never heard it. My grandma says “like water on a hot skillet” I think.. I dunno, there’s something she says. It’s true! My two youngest need a lot of physical input. And I’ve noticed the one about giving my middle something to do while memorizing facts. (Clapping game, etc.) But I’ll have to try the pillow one. I think you’ve told me that before, Dawn, but I’ve never tried it!
    *Adding to school supply list.. “Need..small..pillow…”* =)

    • Hi Amber,

      Thank you for stopping by. I had not heard Dawn’s expression before, but I have heard the one about the water on the skillet. My kids are like that. I will be trying out the pillow.


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