Dear Preschool Teacher,
I am so excited for my first day of preschool! I can’t wait to make friends, to play with toys, and learn new things – I feel like a big kid now.
But I’m also really scared. Because, well, I’m different. And I’m scared you won’t understand me.
I have Sensory Processing Disorder. That’s a lot of fancy words to say that sometimes things are too much, and sometimes things are just not enough. I’m like Goldilocks – it’s hard for me to find things “just right.”
Mommy says you’re really good at helping kids.
I don’t know though, did you ever have one like me?
For me, sometimes things are just too much. Lights can be too bright. I really don’t like the buzzy sound some lights make too. Colors too – I like calm colors and not too many of them at one time. I know lots of other kids like rainbow colored everything, but they make my eyes so tired and it’s hard to decide what is the most important thing to look at. Can you leave some space on the walls empty for my eyes to take a break sometimes?
Noises of all kinds can really bother me. I know preschool is a noisy place and that’s just the way it is. Mommy said I can wear my special headphones if it gets too loud. If you want me to pay attention to something, just touch my arm and look at my face to be sure I hear you. I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring you, I’m really not. When it’s noisy, or even sometimes when it’s quiet, I can’t tell what to listen to first and everything is the same volume. It’s like if you were in a room with a tv and a radio blasting while a party is happening and someone is trying to talk to you from across the room.
I’m a really picky eater, but I wish I wasn’t. I only like a few foods, because most of them bother me and make me feel like I’m going to be sick. Sometimes it’s the way the food tastes, but sometimes it’s how it feels in my mouth or how it smells. During cooking activities and taste tests, please don’t be mad when I won’t try the food. I don’t want to be sick in front of my friends.
Touching things can be hard for me too. Sometimes I want to run my fingers through things and make a big mess. I might get carried away and put the fingerpaints on my arms and face because it feels SO GOOD. It makes my skin stop crawling for a few minutes. But if you want me to touch that powdery cornstarch, I can’t do it. It feels too awful on my hands. Can I please wear gloves to touch things I find icky, or maybe use a spoon? Clothes can be tough for me too. Mommy has a hard time finding me ones that don’t hurt my skin or itch. I might struggle to keep my shoes and socks on, or you might see me in the same shirt a lot.
I’m not as good at running and jumping as my friends. My therapist says it’s because I have problems keeping my balance. I fall a lot, but if you encourage me to keep trying, I will get stronger and my muscles will learn. My little muscles are tired all the time too. It is hard for me to color or write for a long time and my work might get messy. Small holes on beads are super frustrating because my fingers don’t do what I tell them to. I know you have some ideas on how to help me with those, right?
Teacher, I sometimes get overwhelmed when everything is going at once. I don’t mean to scream and shout and hit, but when I do, it’s because the world is super scary and loud all at one time. The fire truck you barely hear is super loud to me. Same with that motorcycle in the parking lot. Sometimes I’ll need a space away from my friends so I can calm down. A big hug or soft blanket might help me – Mommy said she’ll let you know.
And Teacher, know that I will love to learn things in your classroom, even if it doesn’t seem like I’m paying attention. I must move and wiggle when you are talking. That’s because if I try to sit still, the only thing I can think of is “sit still and don’t move.” If you put me in the back of the group, I will try very hard not to distract my friends while my body wiggles and bounces and rocks.
I know I’m not the easiest kid to have in your class. But I love learning and want to be with you.
Thank you for helping me to learn the best ways I can.
Your Student with Sensory Processing Disorder
Some Notes about Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, is a spectrum disorder. It is often diagnosed alongside other conditions, such as Autism or ADHD, or it is a standalone diagnosis. And, like Autism, every child with SPD has different things that work for them and others that bother them.
There are three main categories within the spectrum of Sensory Processing Disorder.
- Seekers (Also known as hyporesponsive)
- Avoiders (Also known as hyperresponsive)
Seekers are the children that crave input constantly. They will be spreading materials on their arms, bouncing off of the walls, spinning, making noises. Their body craves constant input.
Avoiders are the opposite. They might be the child that appears shy and is hiding under the desk, the one that is slow to respond, that refuses to touch, smell, or otherwise engage in different activities.
Combination kids are the most common. They’re exactly that – a mix of seeking and avoiding behaviors.
This letter only touches on some of the behaviors that might arise with a child with SPD. It is by no means meant to be a list to be checked off. Sensory Processing Disorder can only be diagnosed by a professional.
For More Information on Sensory Processing Disorder
A good synopsis of what Sensory Processing Disorder is, and where to go for help.
This site has a lot of resources specifically for teachers.
An academic power-point on Sensory Process Disorder in the classroom.
Please feel free to reach out in the comments if you need help finding additional resources!