There was a time, probably when you were young, when preschoolers mostly focused on things like learning colors and playing house and finger painting. Even that stuff might be a problem for your child with sensory integration disorder — you need a smoothly working visual sense to notice color distinctions, good motor planning to do pretend play, and no tactile sensitivity to enjoy that goopy finger paint — but things are much more complicated than that now.
More and more, preschoolers are expected to do academic tasks that might at one time have been the job of kindergarteners or first-graders. For children who have delays in movement, auditory and visual perception, and tactile discrimination, that can fill the preschool years with frustration.
Since many children with sensory integration disorder have developmental delays stemming from missed milestones in infancy and the toddler years, you'll want to still consider the points raised in those sections. But additional concerns will probably spring up with the increase in social and academic expectations.
If you have your child enrolled in preschool, you may start hearing about him jostling other children, moving excessively, being underattentive, having behavioral outbursts, fighting transitions, and generally not being with the preschool program. If your child's sensory integration problems have delayed toilet training, you'll likely hear about that, too.
Keeping your child out of preschool and working intently on sensory integration therapy and at-home sensory diet activities is one option. On the plus side, you may be able to provide her with a more predictable, less threatening environment in which to work on her delays and weaknesses. On the minus side, your child will still have a difficult transition to make into the world of school and children, and having her make it at the kindergarten level may put her behind in school readiness skills on top of everything else.
If you can find a preschool that is willing to accommodate her special needs and work with you on appropriate behavior management, it might be worth having your child there at least a few days a week.
Depending on the degree of your child's special needs, special education preschool through your school district might be an ideal choice. Usually available to three and four year olds, it can include speech, occupational, and physical therapy along with a curriculum tailored to children with delays and challenges. Contact your school district's special education office for information or to request an evaluation.
Preschoolers with sensory integration problems may still be working on milestones from previous years, and they may miss additional milestones during these learning-packed preschool years. Social and self-control challenges will be added to those involved with walking and talking.
The Auditory Sense
Children who have trouble with information from the auditory sense may be unable to achieve such preschool milestones as these:
Having a conversation
Identifying words that rhyme
Knowing 2,000 words
Singing and playing with words
The Visual Sense
Children who have trouble with information from the visual sense may be unable to achieve such preschool milestones as these:
Sorting items into categories
Identifying similarities and differences
Adapting to new environments
The Tactile Sense
Children who have trouble with information from the tactile sense may be unable to achieve such preschool milestones as these:
Playing interactively with other children (which could apply to all senses)
Enjoying new experiences (which could apply to all senses)
The Proprioceptive Sense
Children who have trouble with information from the proprioceptive sense may be unable to achieve such preschool milestones as these:
Understanding spatial concepts
Following complex commands
Drawing a body with all body parts
Kicking a ball with appropriate force
The Vestibular Sense
Children who have trouble with information from the vestibular sense may be unable to achieve such preschool milestones as these:
Standing on one foot
Moving forward and backward
Low Muscle Tone
Children who have low muscle tone may be unable to achieve such preschool milestones as these:
Holding fork and knife
Drawing shapes and letters