About sensory functioning
Sensory functioning describes how the body responds to sounds, textures, lights, smells, pain, temperature and other stimuli or information in the environment. Some children can have reduced sensory awareness, such as children who are Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing, or children who are blind or low vision. Other children may find some sensory input distracting or distressing, such as those with autism.
Some children may not like loud noises (e.g. they cover their ears or become upset in large crowds or when you raise your voice), while others may be sensitive to certain textures (e.g. fabrics, tags on clothing, sand, or types of food) or smells (e.g. perfumes). Particular types of lighting or another person maintaining eye contact can also be distressing for some children. Some children can also show an interest in sensory stimuli or find it comforting. For example, they might sniff toys or objects, or be fascinated by lights or movement. Some children can show under-responsiveness to some types of sensory information, like pain or temperature. This can increase their risk of getting hurt or being ill and others not being aware of it. All children will differ in the type and severity of sensory concerns they have.
Best practice tips
Be aware of students’ sensory needs
Provide a quiet area
Have a safe back-up activity
Allow time to calm down
Allow the use of noise-reducing headphones
Visit our resources page for a range of resources that can help to create inclusive education environments for children with disabilities and developmental challenges. One particularly relevant resource supporting children with sensory input issues is: