For some of us, school can be daunting, difficult and overwhelming. However, there are ways occupational therapy can assist children who find it a little more challenging to actually love attending school. Through our proven tips and tricks within the classroom your child will start to enjoy all the wonderful learnings school has to offer.
In the classroom, self-regulation is an important skill for students to develop and achieve their academic goals as well as to engage and interact appropriately with their environment, peers and teachers.
Self-regulation is our ability to monitor, adjust and maintain our emotions, attention, thoughts and behaviour in response to the things happening around us. Essentially, it is our ability to stop, think and then act.
Staying motivated and attentive during class
Self-regulation allows students to sustain attention and motivation during lessons, switch focus between tasks and follow instructions. It helps them take turns with their peers, resist big emotional reactions and calm themselves down if there’s something upsetting or frustrating in the classroom.
“Like any skill, self-regulation needs to be taught, practiced and refined”
Difficulties with self-regulation can lead to poor study practices and behavioural challenges. It can be particularly tricky for some children with a disability, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder or learning disabilities.
5 key strategies for the classroom environment to help with self-regulation
1. Classroom Environment
The classroom environment plays a large role in supporting self-regulation. Think about the current classroom set-up and how it might be modified to encourage self-regulation. For example, dimming the lights or playing calming music can help set the tone for or mark transition to quieter activities. Consider how student work displayed on classroom walls can be arranged in a visually calming manner to improve self-regulation and reduce distractions.
2. Introduce a quiet corner
Having a quiet corner for children who need a break from the hustle and bustle of the classroom can be helpful to assist with calming nerves and restlessness. Teaching children how this space needs to be used will help it to be most effective.
3. Fidget toys or pieces of fabric
Having a container of fidget toys or pieces of fabric with different textures within the classroom for children who need to fiddle with something while they’re listening can improve focus.
4. Activity breaks
Regular movement breaks such as yoga and heavy work activities like animal walks can help children connect with their bodies and stay ready for learning. Games such as “Simon Says” or “Musical Statues” teach children to pause and think before reacting, as well as practice their listening skills.
5. Breathing Techniques
Child-friendly breathing techniques can have calming effects and help students bring their focus back within their bodies when they are feeling heightened. These can be done as a whole class when transitioning from an active task to a quieter one or in individual situations as needed. These can be practiced at home as well as at school and can also be intertwined with yoga.
Mindfulness techniques are being increasingly incorporated into classroom settings to help children be present in the moment regarding their thoughts, emotions, body sensations and surrounding environment. Like breathing techniques, these can be practiced in many settings.
As advised by your treating therapist, OTFC Group offers school observation visits where an OTFC therapist will go out to your child’s school and observe them during school related tasks and transition periods.
This therapist will then liaise with the school staff, SSOs and teachers to recommend some personalised strategies to assist your child’s regulation, skill development and engagement in the classroom.
We then can provide suggestions regarding sensory equipment and aids for the classroom and school environment. Like alternative seating and slight changes to the classroom if need be.
This then includes a detailed report which can be forwarded on to other services as needed.
OTFC Group – Influencing Lives. Creating Possibilities. Making a Difference
OTFC is a South Australian clinic-based service that is centrally located and services children and adolescents from birth through to 21 years of age both locally and nationally. Dedicated to providing a client focused approach where children and families feel validated in their concerns, supported in difficult times, encouraged to be proactive and inspired to facilitate change.