By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/LEPISODE 10

Hey there! Welcome back to the podcast. This week’s episode is a nice complement to last week’s episode, where we talked about what kinds of preschool environments work best (or don’t work best) for a child with sensory processing disorder or sensory processing differences. So if you want to learn more about those details, make sure you head over to episode 9.

Today’s episode is perfect for parents but also if there are any OTs out there who support kids in classrooms, and also any teachers out there trying to find some solutions to help your sensory students out… this is a great one.

One quick disclaimer for you: I realize that at the time of this recording (October 2021) the school systems in the US are dealing with huge impacts from the pandemic, such as teacher shortages & resource shortages.

Also, there are changes in the way that classrooms are set up and regulations on what materials or items are allowed to be used in the classroom. The following are all suggestions I would have used in the past when I worked with schools pre pandemic.

I also want to make it clear that not all teachers or schools or classrooms have the ability to make all of these suggestions work. You can suggest them, but some classrooms just don’t allow for these modifications. 

Lastly, some suggestions require a change on your part as the parent for drop off/pick up which again, I understand is not always easy and many parents don’t have the flexibility with work schedules or other siblings- this is me just brain dumping as many solutions and accommodations as I can think of… and you can decide what would work or not work for your child/family/school. 

Want to start an open dialogue with your child’s teacher? Check out my free email template!

Sensory accommodations for the classroom 

Let’s start out by talking about some sensory tools, accommodations or strategies that might be helpful in the classroom.

Whenever I talk about what sensory tools a child should have access to in the classroom, parents always bring up a question like “well, I don’t want my kid to stand out” or “I don’t want my child to feel like they’re the only one using headphones or that special chair”.

I get this. I really do, and I’ve heard this for years. I have a couple things to offer in regards to this.

First, I ask you… what’s the alternative? If you don’t want your child to “stand out” or be “noticed” for using headphones or a fidget or a different chair… how would you feel if your child was noticed for how wiggly they always were, or always getting called out by their teacher to sit still, or for having meltdowns because the sound was too loud vs just using headphones to help?

The other thing is… this is where advocacy and spreading awareness comes into play. I would love if more teachers could have more lessons on inclusivity with different abilities and learning and playing styles.

For example, when introducing sensory tools to the classroom, a quick lesson like

“These are called sensory tools. They help some students learn. They are not toys. Everyone needs something different to help their body feel calm and ready to learn. This helps some students feel that way. If you want to try it, you can. If it becomes a distraction and doesn’t help you learn or feel calm, then it’s not the right tool for you.”

Something as simple as that can help set the stage for the idea that these are just tools for learning, not toys, not special things that one boy gets, and not something “weird” that the weird kid gets… everyone uses them if they need it.

Here’s a few of the most common sensory accommodations for the classroom I’ve recommended in the past.


Sensory Accommodations for Routines & Schedules in the Classroom

Aside from sensory tools and strategies within the classroom setting, I also make a few suggestions for parents/teachers/administration staff to include within the child’s overall school routine and schedule based on their needs. Here’s a few examples:

From Stressed to Dressed Guide

If you have a child who has sensitivities to the way that clothes fit, the way that fabrics feel to the point where they won’t wear certain clothes, this guidebook will provide a step-by-step program at home to help add variety to their closet and hopefully decrease your daily clothing battles.

One huge PSA: 

Do NOT let your child’s teacher take away recess or any other form of physical movement/ sensory activity as a punishment. Or if you’re a teacher listening, please don’t do this, and please advocate or speak out against other teachers who do this.

Too many schools are doing this. “Oh you didn’t listen during story time” or “you didn’t finish your assignment you need to sit in at recess and do it” We should NOT be taking away recess. I can’t stress this enough and I hope this message gets to at least one teacher that can change their mind.

There are a lot more ways to help your child succeed in a classroom, but these were just some of the common ones I often use when supporting my clients.

I hope this information was helpful! Remember, it’s more important to adapt and modify the tasks and environments to best fit our child’s needs, vs trying to change our child to meet the environment. 


Learn how to look at behavior through an OT lens and start decoding your child’s behavior into sensory and non sensory triggers, so you can start supporting them more effectively. Check out the Sensory IS Behavior mini course.

Learn how to look at behavior through an OT lens and start decoding your child’s behavior into sensory and non sensory triggers, so you can start supporting them more effectively. Check out the Sensory IS Behavior mini course.


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Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

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