When your child reaches school age, you lose a significant amount of control over his environment and his routine. Kindergarten may still be half day, but many school districts are putting even these young ones on a full day schedule. At least from first grade on, your child may be spending as many waking hours in a classroom as in your home.
If you've been working for years on sensory integration therapy and a sensory diet, he's probably more in control of himself and more able to adjust to change. But the degree of change involved in switching to a full school day, full of academic and behavioral expectations, may be more than he can handle.
As days get longer, recess gets shorter, class work gets harder, homework gets heavier, and tolerance for unusual behavior lessens, your child's stress level may soar, making her even less able to face the sensory challenges of school.
The complaints you may have received from preschool teachers will be all the more distressing coming from elementary school teachers and administrators. Your child may begin to develop a record of disciplinary problems, and she may struggle academically due to her trouble with processing what the teacher says, what the teacher writes on the board, and what needs to be written down. Desk work and pencil work can be torture for kids with proprioceptive problems and low muscle tone.
It's not just the schoolwork that will test your child's fragile abilities, though. Even more stressful may be the rising social expectations that his peers put on him. If your child has trouble playing without jostling — or if he screams and cries when jostled — he may be mocked and ostracized. If his play skills are on a different developmental level than those of his peers, he may be called a baby and left out of others' play.
Your child's preschool teacher may suggest holding your child back a year, or his kindergarten teacher may recommend repeating the year. Don't dismiss this idea without careful thought. Any trauma your child may feel about being left behind will likely be less than the embarrassment of being constantly behind, incorrect, and clumsy at school.
As “weirdness” of any sort becomes a social detriment, your child may find it hard to make friends or find inclusion. He may not even be able to understand what is expected of him under the complicated social codes of childhood.
Children with sensory integration problems may still be working on milestones from their preschool years, and they may miss additional milestones during these stressful and learning-packed school years. The social, self-control, mobility, and language processing challenges that have been building up explode during this period to present your child with sometimes insurmountable developmental tasks.
The Auditory Sense
Children who have trouble with information from the auditory sense may be unable to achieve such school age milestones as these:
Socializing through conversation
Paying attention in a noisy classroom environment
Understanding social rules
Controlling behavioral outbursts
The Visual Sense
Children who have trouble with information from the visual sense may be unable to achieve such school age milestones as these:
Seeing information on a chalkboard
Learning to read
Following visual cues
Concentrating in a visually busy or bright classroom setting
The Tactile Sense
Children who have trouble with information from the tactile sense may be unable to achieve such school age milestones as these:
Dressing in peer-approved ways
Tolerating large group activities
Caring what others think about them
Understanding appropriate personal boundaries
The Proprioceptive Sense
Children who have trouble with information from the proprioceptive sense may be unable to achieve such school age milestones as these:
Enjoying playground games and sports
Sitting still in classroom environment
Carrying out multi-step instructions
Imitating adults' behavior
The Vestibular Sense
Children who have trouble with information from the vestibular sense may be unable to achieve such school age milestones as these:
Enjoying playground games and sports
Taking appropriate risks
Finding their way around school and neighborhood
Going up and down stairs carrying books
Low Muscle Tone
Children who have low muscle tone may be unable to achieve such school age milestones as these:
Sitting at a desk