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 teenagers can have reduced sensory awareness, such as teens who are Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing, or teens who are blind or low vision. Other teenagers may find some sensory input distracting or distressing such as those with autism. By the teen years most young people will have a good idea of what sensory stimuli they find uncomfortable. Some teens 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. specific fabrics, types of food) or smells (e.g. perfumes/deodorants). Particular types of lighting or another person maintaining eye contact can also be distressing for some teens. Some teens can also show an interest in sensory stimuli or find it comforting. For example they might sniff objects, or be fascinated by lights or movement. Some teens 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. All teens will differ in the type and severity of sensory concerns they have. Many will already have strategies in place.
Best practice tips
Be aware of students’ sensory needs
Provide a quiet area
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 students with disabilities and developmental challenges. A particularly relevant resource for supporting students with sensory issues is: