Reply To: Sensory Processing/Autism

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I agree with butlerm269 that it might be a good idea to have the students come down separately from the class if possible–not necessarily to have them for their own separate period (although that would be a good idea), but just maybe have their aide bring them down for a few minutes by themselves, maybe first thing in the morning on the day that they have music, so they can get used to the music room in an environment that isn’t so stressful (if it’s just them and not 20 other kids, it might help them feel a little more relaxed). Also, I don’t know what their reading skills are like, what grade they are in, or how high-functioning they are, but we have one boy with an auditory sensitivity and also some anxiety with transitions between places and activities, and his aide carries a dry erase board with her. She writes him short notes throughout the day about what he is going to be doing next and reminders about what to expect, and how to behave appropriately. For example, at an assembly the other day, her note said “We are going to an assembly. I will sit on my bottom facing forward and will be a good listener. There may be loud talking or loud music. If I don’t like this, I will tell Mrs. S.” There is another little script for fire drills, etc. so that he remembers that the bell will be loud, that we are practicing going outside, keeping our voices quiet, and staying in a line, and that after the drill we will be coming back inside–and he can ask the aide for a squeeze (squeeze his hand) if he needs one. That way, he knows ahead of time what to expect, so it’s not so jarring when it does happen… and he can learn an appropriate way to react to it (tell his aide so she can take him out for a few minutes, rather than screaming or crying and lying down on the floor). If the student can’t read, maybe the teacher/aide or you could write up a short script of a few sentences about what to expect before music class and have the aide read it to them just before coming into the classroom. Also, we have another student who is working on appropriate ways to react to things that make him anxious–his aide has a little board with a check-off off appropriate behaviors (listening respectfully, being safe, cooperating with others, etc.) and when his behavior is on target she has a little token that is velcroed into that box and she shows this to him as a visual reminder so he knows he’s doing the right thing. (The tokens are earned towards rewards.) I know that the students in your situation have a sensitivity to sound, but you note that there seems to be a lot of anxiety even before any music is happening…. so maybe if they have a visual reminder of “this is what will happen, and this is what you should do” it might be helpful.

Also, maybe if the students could be placed on the end of a row so that they are not right in the middle of all the sound with other kids singing or playing instruments, that might be better.