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Sensory Seekers and Avoiders - How can we help?

Beccie Hawes shares a range of ideas that may help your sensory seekers and avoiders matched to their senses so that they remain available for learning.

Posted on Monday 07th November 2022

Have you ever woken up and felt not quite right? You might not be able to quite put your finger on what’s going on but you probably know that you need something to achieve a feeling of balance. If we are feeling a bit flat, we might drink coffee and play the stereo in the car at its loudest to perk us up on our way to work. If we are feeling a little too bouncy, we might go for a run or stand up to do our work to use up that extra energy. Subconsciously, you could argue that we are moderating our arousal levels with some sort of sensory input. Sometimes we seek a sensory experience and sometimes we avoid. This helps us achieve a personal balance so that we are in a good place to become available for what the day throws at us.

Sensory Glow Cylinders

This can often be what the pupils in our classroom do but perhaps not in such a sophisticated or socially acceptable way. Some of our pupils might rock, flap, make high pitched noises, stamp their feet and seek pressure or withdraw when touched, cover their ears and look at things using their periphery vision. Often this might be in the middle of a whole school assembly, the dining hall or a lesson. If they don’t have the opportunity to self-regulate their sensory needs in order to be ‘available’ for learning, then we get behaviour as the pupil becomes ‘full’ and struggles to cope.

Here are some ideas that may help your sensory seekers and avoiders matched to their senses so that they remain available for learning:

Sensory Seekers and Avoiders

With all of these activities, it is important to remember to:

  • Consult your school’s health and safety policy and risk assess as appropriate.
  • Model what each experience is and discuss how and why it might help.
  • Check if the pupil has any allergies or health conditions that the activity may not support.
  • Offer experiences flexibly, at the right time to achieve the right state.
  • Encourage the pupil to self-advocate so that they learn to recognise their own sensory needs and develop independence in matching and executing a sensory experience/activity to achieve the right personal balance.

A huge thank you to Beccie Hawes for writing this blog for us.

About Beccie Hawes

Beccie has worked in all aspects of Special Educational Needs including mainstream, additionally resourced provision and specialist settings. She has extensive experience as a SENCo, Inclusion Manager, Lead Local Authority SEND Advisory Teacher and has set up and led an inclusion advisory service.

Beccie is currently proud to be the Head of Service with Cadmus Inclusive, part of Cadmus Services, which is based in Walsall. This service has a national reach and actively supports schools with all aspects of providing a high quality education for vulnerable learners. Beccie is the author of ‘The Complete Dyslexia Toolkit’ and co-author of ‘Getting it Right for SEND’ and ‘How to Create the Perfect Partnership with Parents’. Beccie also writes the national Ebriefing: SEND Bitesize. She has developed a number of educational resources to support learners which schools across the UK have purchased and use.  Beccie remains very ‘hands on’ in the classroom and is passionate about being at the chalk face to support teachers and children to think differently for a brighter tomorrow. She is also the mum to four boys and a dog.

Beccie Hawes - SEND expert