Making Sense of SPD

Sensory Processing Disorder

Those 3 words can throw a homeschool day completely out of whack! Especially if you homeschool a child who has sensory processing disorder issues.

We are all blessed to have senses- we can taste, smell, feel, and see, etc. and it helps us to enjoy the world we live in. For children with Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, everyday life is chaos because their brains do not organize the senses coming in correctly. Their brains "overreact" to the sense. It can cause a lot of discomfort for the child, makes it hard for them to focus, and can make parents crazy trying to figure out what is wrong with their child. Many times it can be confused with bad behavior, when in reality, the child is really struggling. There are many different symptoms and every child is different.

For children with SPD, a regular classroom can be torture. The fluorescent lights are too bright, the noise of all the children shuffling around is distracting, and heaven forbid the child have a wrinkle in their sock and can't straighten it out. These children need order and routine, quiet spaces, and room to move around as needed. It can be a huge blessing to be able to homeschool them, because many times , something that appeared as bad behavior in the classroom is completely turned around in the homeschool environment as the parents can work one on one with the child's special needs.  

Rebecca Ruiz, past member of the Special Needs Advisory Board for HECOA, has two children with varying sensory issues who are at complete opposite ends of the sensory spectrum.  "One of my sons can't stand loud noises, does not notice when he gets dirty or messy, hates to have his shoulders and ears touched, HATES socks and shoes, does not notice when his clothes are on sideways, gets hyper very easily, fine motor and gross motor skill delays, etc… " Rebecca says, "My other son gets very hyper as well, has no attention span, freaks out when he gets the least bit dirty and has to constantly clean his hands, face, or any other skin, his socks have to be on just right, no tags in the shirts, cannot stand having his hair washed, cut, or touched in general, teeth brushing is difficult at best, and nails being clipped, forget it!" You can bet the Ruiz family deals with a myriad of issues throughout the day.

When it comes to getting academic work done in the midst of all of this, it can be a challenge but it can be done.  Another wonderful gift with homeschooling is the ability to stop in between subjects and do a sensory activity, which helps the child to organize their brain and helps them to focus.  Keeping a list of creative activities on hand for these moments is helpful, and Rebecca has learned the hard way that she must actually schedule sensory breaks into her day.

Rebecca has a lot of fantastic ideas for activities that can be done without breaking the bank to help your SPD child.  Here are a few of the things on her list:

  • Use a picture schedule so children are aware of what’s coming next.
  • Take a sensory break every 30-45 minutes.
  • Incorporate sensory activities while completing schoolwork. These can be as easy as chewing gum, sucking on a straw, or using a fidget toy.
  • Try using a weighted vest for 15-20 minutes at a time, or a weighted lap blanket.
  • A seat wedge can be used to help with sitting down. Do not restrict children to only sitting.  Sometimes they learn best by walking around while you are reading to them; one of the beauties of homeschooling!
  • Sweeping, mopping, using the vacuum, playing a game of tug of war, mazes, puzzles, using shaving cream to practice letters, the list is endless!


Here are some additional activities for children with Sensory Processing Disorder which have been submitted by some of our other members :

     * Simon Says- use active movements such as balance on one foot, spin, crawl, walk on all fours.

     * Play-doh- You can make your own, there are a lot of great sites on the web with good recipes for make your own play-doh, or use store bought. They will love to squish it, roll it, use cookie cutters, etc.

     * Fill a bin with pinto beans or uncooked rice. Let the child play with cups and spoons or sand toys and feel the fun stuff in the bins.

     * Trace letters onto sandpaper then cut them out, let the child practice tracing the letters with their fingers to practice forming letters.


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