How to Use Sensory Calming and Focusing Items - Life.Church Leaders

How to Use Sensory Calming and Focusing Items

Many students who use Switch Support deal with sensory issues that make it hard for them to pay attention or feel relaxed in stimulating environments.

When Switch Support leaders recognize their student’s need for a sensory calming and focus item and provide it to them, they can help bring a student out of their fight-or-flight state or help a student to focus by offering their mind something relaxing to do while they listen or participate. Many students will be able to participate in their small group discussions if they’re able to hold and fidget with something that acts as a distraction to their nervous or pent-up energy so they can focus on what’s being said and what they’d like to say in response.

Imagine how smoothly you can help a group’s small group discussion run when you plop a few fidget items in the middle for the kids who need them to grab! And imagine just how refreshing it will be for the student you’re supporting to see that they’re not the only one who benefits from using sensory supports like these!

Some of the students you work with might not be able to communicate to you with words. If that’s the case, you’ll need to learn to watch for signs they need a sensory break or comfort item.

How Do You Know When a Sensory Comfort and Focusing Item Is Needed?

Watch for signs of sensory discomfort like pacing, whining, refusing to enter an environment, trying to escape an environment, covering ears, or excessive blinking. It might be time for headphones, sunglasses, or a break to a quieter area. Watch for signs of a dysregulated sensory system which may manifest as fear, physical pain, irritability, defiance, and/or discomfort from the noise, movement, smells, textures, and lighting. Again, a fidget item, a break, or other sensory supports will probably help more than you can imagine.

What Is Already Available at Switch?

Switch has some fidget items, earplugs, headphones, and sunglasses lined up for you to use if you think your student (or even their whole small group!) would benefit from them.

What Are Some Other Things That Make Good Sensory Calming and Focusing Items?

Many everyday things make great sensory calming and focusing items. Pay attention to which items help the student you work with to regulate and calm, and which ones stimulate them. When you find something that works, keep it with you every week so it’s ready when you need it. Talk to your campus staff if an item listed below is something you’d like your campus to order so you can try it with your student.

Anything squishy

Anything with lights

Anything with heft

Things with (or without) fragrance

Things to chew

Things that block out stimuli

Things for fidgeting

Use Variety

The same item may not work every week. Sometimes the item you offered last week didn’t work then, but it might be exactly what’s needed this week. Try as many items as you need to so that you can help your student keep calm and focused. Keep a small assortment with you as you support your student each week. As you get to know the student or students you’re supporting, you’ll be learning what they need—and you’ll help a student find their place amongst their peers in the Body of Christ!