Small changes can sometimes make all the difference in the lives of students. Northwest AEA occupational therapist Beth Tisher found this out firsthand last spring as she recommended small adjustments be made for a kindergarten student attending school in the Sioux City Community School District.
The student was exhibiting behavioral issues and was on a behavior plan for months, with minimal success. Northwest AEA was asked to get involved, and Beth sat in on a meeting with the boy's family. She learned that the student was overwhelmed with too much noise and that he became agitated when others got in "his space."
Beth recommended assessing his sensory processing. In doing so, they found out that he has a great deal of difficulty tolerating sensory stimuli and that this was probably adding to his inability to cope in the school setting. The school and Northwest AEA team put in some interventions, such as deep pressure touch, a neoprene vest, figits that spin (because he enjoyed watching things that spin) and seating away from other students to reduce the impact of the over-stimulated environment in the classroom.
In listening to his family, Beth also heard that he was very routine-bound and disliked unexpected things in his day. She recommended that the teacher make a daily schedule that could be taped on the boy's desk. He was allowed to cross things off as they happened so he knew what was coming up next. They also started using a "first/then" approach to getting him to accomplish some work, as he was previously not accomplishing anything throughout the day. These two items, paired with the sensory suggestions, helped to get some compliance out of the student and the team noticed a change in the classroom atmosphere.
The school's administrator, with the AEA and school team, have kept the lines of communication open and have made adjustments, together, along the way. The family was very supportive of the recommendations, as well as being very active in the process. In fact, the father came to the school on a weekly basis to provide positive attention for good behavior and the parents worked with the school and AEA team by pursuing assistance with the situation medically.
The student will be switching to a different school within the district this year. The team feels they have learned a great deal about the child in the process of working with him in kindergarten, which will be very helpful for his new teacher this year.
This situation was a great combination of the school, AEA and family being flexible and willing to try things in order to help the student improve his ability to learn.