Sensory Integration

A child who is seeking sensory input in the classroom can be distracted from the schoolwork at hand. Her inability to stay on task can be problematic to students around her as well. Often, this problem can be alleviated by using small sensory items in therapy and in the classroom.

Tactile Items

Velcro can be used for tactile input when fidgety fingers are looking for something to do. Applying a strip of the self-stick Velcro under the child's desk provides an instant source of tactile input. The child can run her fingers along the strip as she listens to classroom presentations.

Squeeze balls also provide sensory input. Many varieties are available commercially. Some are filled with clear water. Some have glitter or tiny floating objects inside. Others (made in different, themed shapes) are made of a squeezable foam material. Again, the child can squeeze the item for needed sensory input.

You can make your own squeeze ball at home. Put a small amount (¼–½ cup) of flour, sugar, or sand into a balloon. Secure it by tying the balloon closed. Again, consider whether this is appropriate and safe for your own child. Biting, picking, and latex allergies are a few considerations.


“Squeeze” items are not right for every child. If your child bites or picks on things, consider whether the sensory item is safe for her. Some items are not manufactured for therapeutic use. Check occupational and speech therapy sites for specially made products.

Some children with sensory integration difficulties crave deep pressure. This is sometimes treated with a special brushing program that involves repeated movements on the arms and legs using a surgical brush. This kind of program should be set up and monitored by an occupational therapist or doctor.

For some children, beanbag chairs are effective for providing deep pressure. As the child sits in the bean bag chair, she feels the comfort of the chair's snugness. Specially designed weighted vests and blankets can also be used for specified periods of time. As with all sensory input programs, these should be monitored by a trained therapist or doctor.

Seat cushions help some children stay focused at school. The cushions come in circle and wedge shapes and can be filled with air or liquid. The movement of the cushion requires the child to concentrate — on staying seated and on her work.

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