Unravelling Sensory Secrets: How Sensory Needs Impact On Behaviour and Learning (with Lindsey Biel)

Unravelling Sensory Secrets: How Sensory Needs Impact On Behaviour and Learning (with Lindsey Biel)

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In this Essentials episode, we delve into the impact of sensory issues on behaviour and learning in the classroom - and discover why sensory needs can be related to dysregulation in our pupils.

Award-winning occupational therapist Lyndsey Biel explains why addressing our students' sensory needs is key to their success - and shares practical solutions for meeting those needs in the classroom.

Important links:

Click here for the full interview from episode 30.

Lindsey's SensorySmarts website

Lindsey's book: Raising A Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues

Get our FREE SEND Behaviour Handbook: https://beaconschoolsupport.co.uk/SEN-handbook.php

Download other FREE behaviour resources for use in school: https://beaconschoolsupport.co.uk/resources.php

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Show notes / transcription

Lindsey Biel  0:00  

But what I do see is that people with sensory issues that are not fully addressed, start to have some behavioural problems and attention problems because they're so preoccupied with what's happening to their bodies, that it interferes with attention and interferes with learning and interferes with focus and self regulation.

Simon Currigan  0:22  

Welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course students. When classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural Special Needs whole school strategy and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear their latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the school behaviour secrets podcast. Hi there, Simon Currigan here and welcome to another essentials episode of school behaviour secrets, where I share with you one important strategy or insight from a guest in an earlier episode that can have an impact for your students in your school or your classroom. In this essentials episode, I'm going to share a section of my interview with Lindsay Biel. Lindsay is an award winning author and paediatric occupational therapist in New York where she evaluates and treats young people with sensory processing issues, developmental delays, Autism Spectrum conditions, and other challenges. I asked her to explain the differences between sensory processing disorder and autism. Just because

Lindsey Biel  1:43  

someone has sensory processing difficulties does not mean they are on the autism spectrum. But almost everybody who is on the autism spectrum has sensory issues. Unfortunately, what happens is people who are diagnosed as autistic tend to have the most extreme sensory issues, strong sensory issues and potentially disabling sensory issues. So again, it's a continuum. But you know, to be clear, there are people with attention disorders who have sensory problems, there are people with all kinds of diagnoses physical disabilities, people who have experienced adverse childhood events, all different kinds of people can have sensory issues. So it kind of cuts across all of these labels and diagnoses. And there are also there's a, you know, some people who really don't qualify for any kind of diagnosis otherwise, who just have sensory issues. But what I do see is that people with sensory issues that are not fully addressed, start to have some behavioural problems and attention problems, because they're so preoccupied with what's happening to their bodies, that it interferes with attention and interferes with learning and interferes with focus and self regulation. So we can think of these diagnoses as like these neat silos, you know, this fits in this silo. And then over here is this stuff, and oh, she's got this so she's got to be in this silo. You know, it's not really like that. The good news is that teachers parents can use many of the same strategies, no matter what's going on underneath desensitising to tactile input, touching desensitising to frequencies of sound, getting rid of fluorescent lights, providing supportive, comfortable seating that helps the child to or adult, I tend to say child, but it's all different ages, to help them feel more comfortable sitting and able to attend providing a weighted wearable, a weighted lap pad or shoulder shrug, to help to literally ground them in space and feel more comfortable these kinds of things.

Simon Currigan  4:14  

I've just finished reading your book around raising a sentry smart child, and whether you're a parent or a teacher, or both. If you're sitting and listening to this and wondering, how do I find the right kind of compensatory strategies to support my child, your book is just full of them. You say, here's the problem. Here's the problem. Here's the solution. Here's a solution. It's so clearly written. If you're listening to this, I thoroughly recommend it's an excellent book. In your book, actually, one of the things that you say that touches on what you've just been talking about in terms of children trying to manage that sensory load that I found really, really interesting that I've not really thought about before, is that you said that children with sensory problems often have a sort of weak or inconsistent connection between their vestibular system and their other senses could explain what the vestibular system is, and what you mean by the link between that and the other systems and why that is hex on their ability to regulate

Lindsey Biel  5:02  

it's such a complex question, because it is the key question, right. So first of all the definition of the vestibular system, because that's, you know, we all learned about the five senses, you know, and they're actually much more complex and what we learned, but there are three other senses. Just quickly, the vestibular system is a key one. And that is your sense of movement and your relationship to gravity. And the vestibular receptors are located in the inner ear, and they can tell which way is up at all times, they can tell if you're speeding up or slowing down, it's what tells you if you had your eyes closed, and you were on an elevator, you could tell if you were going up or down, right, you could tell if you're in a rocking chair, and you're rocking back and forth, the fluids are swishing around in your ears telling you about the movement and the speed and all of that. There's also a sensory system called proprioception. And that is a sensory system. Its receptors are located in the joints, muscles, and connective tissue of the body. And that's what tells you where your body parts are in space. It's your sense of body awareness. It's how you can tie your shoelaces without looking at what you're doing. It's like muscle memory, we call it so the vestibular system and the proprioceptive system work seamlessly, kind of like a GPS system for the body. And the vestibular system is the key sensory system that gives you your sense of safety and security and tells you where you are on the planet. And it's joined in by the proprioceptive system. You know, not only are you here, but all your body parts are here and there's your hand and there's your arm and there's your foot. So just to add the third one, because people may be wondering, then I'll talk about the linkages. There's also the interoceptive system. And that's very important. That's our sense of the physiological condition of our bodies. Do we need to use the loo? Do we need to eat something? Is your heart beating rapidly? Are you breathing rapidly, this kind of thing. So all of these things have everything to do they all work together to tell us you're safe. You're okay, everything's fine. Oops, you're losing your balance, you better tighten up your muscles and pull yourself back up. Okay, do that. And it's all these neuromuscular things that have to go on. And we're also linking with our vision, right, we need to see what we're reaching for. And by linking with our vision, we know when to stop reaching, because our hand is almost they're reaching for a glass of milk on a table, like you're using all of your senses, your vision and your proprioception and your vestibular system to position yourself and then reach gracefully, hopefully, without, you know, using your vision to slow down as you're getting nearer, so you don't knock over that glass of milk. So it all connects and when it doesn't connect seamlessly and automatically the way it does for most people can really start to have some problems. You can have some and it sounds like a judgmental term but you know, clumsiness, right, the child is tripping over their own feet, they're bumping into other children because they're not using their visual vestibular proprioceptive information in an effective and accurate way, a child leaning over to pick up a pencil, if they have vestibular problem may become very dizzy and disoriented, these kinds of issues. So it becomes very complex. I hope that gives you a taste of that.

Simon Currigan  8:44  

And that was Lindsey Biel talking about sensory needs. If you want to hear more, head back to Episode 30. I'll put a direct link to that episode in the episode description. And I'll also put links to Lindsay's resources there as well. If you've enjoyed listening today, please do remember to rate and review us it only takes 30 seconds and when you do that, it prompts the algorithm to recommend school behaviour secrets to other podcast listeners, and helps us grow the show and reach other teachers, school leaders and parents. And while you've got that podcast app open, please remember to hit subscribe so you never miss another episode. Thanks for listening today and I look forward to seeing you next time on school behaviour secrets

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)