What is it with middle school? Do staff at all middle schools expect the kids who just left elementary school to become miniature adults? Why do so many districts cut back on special education support in middle school? I don’t mean to pick on the staff of middle schools, but I am seeing this more and more. The change has been happening over the last few years. I guess that I am just got frustrated this week as I visited a public school to attend an ARD with a parent. After the ARD, we walked down to the special education self-contained classroom for Middle School students and I was in for a surprise. I did not see one sensory item. There were desks in rows, work on the board, a small group table and all that goes along with a Middle School classroom. What I saw missing was the sensory items that a student with Autism would need. Not one fidget item, therapy band, therapy putty, seat cushion, therapy ball chair, bean bag chair, low lighting areas, or anything. This classroom was set up was organized, well thought out, and nice to a point except the sensory needs of the students were being neglected. I knew that at least one student in this class had sensory needs as I had just come from his ARD.
What is it with middle school? We have sensory items in elementary classrooms. You will see bean bags in corners with low lighting, fidget items on desks, and spelling lessons done in rice, maps made of salt dough, music playing, and more. That is just in the regular education classrooms. The special education classrooms at the elementary level usually have more sensory items than that.
Do educators think that these students should outgrow their sensory needs when they reach middle school? We don’t outgrow them but we may be able to adjust to smaller doses of a items on our sensory diet. Maybe we should explain sensory needs better. First of all, everyone has some type of sensory need. I need movement and music to really work well independently. I love to curl up under my thin fuzzy blanket and read when I feel overwhelmed with life Some people work better in low lighting and some work better in bright lights. Some people need music and some need quiet. Sensory Integration is the neurological process of organizing the sensory messages that we receive every day. Our brain must process the messages from our bodies and environment, interpret the messages, and organize some type of response.
It makes me wonder how long it will take for people to realize that Sensory Integration needs can easily be met in a classroom. If these needs aren’t met, then the student struggles to stay on task. They can be overwhelmed and unable to learn or disruptive to the point of making it hard for anyone to learn.
What do you think? Do we need sensory integration in classrooms? Do we need sensory integration in our secondary schools?