The time for recruitment to nurseries and kindergartens is approaching. Surely, many parents are wondering which institution to choose - whether a public kindergarten is better for our child or whether we should opt for a private one. Some parents may also consider integrated kindergartens. The choice is certainly not easy and, unfortunately, there is no one right answer to this question. In fact, it all depends on the child - his or her potential, but also possible difficulties.
Some children who will start kindergarten in a few months have problems with processing sensory stimuli. Sensory integration disorders can contribute to difficulties in behaviour, social relationships, emotional difficulties, etc. These difficulties, of course, depend on the type and severity of the disorder and many of them are due to hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli. To give you an idea, here are some examples of how SI disorders can affect a child's functioning in the preschool group.
Tactile hypersensitive child
In a larger group, tactile hypersensitive children often take on the role of observers. Touch, especially when unexpected, is so unpleasant to them that they perceive it as a threat. Therefore they instinctively choose to be alone or in a smaller group. They prefer to stay away from "crowds" in order not to be accidentally touched or pushed. They feel bad when they have to stand in a row or sit close to another child, so it sometimes happens that they can push a friend away when he/she gets too close. Dressing themselves can also be a problem, as they are often reluctant to put on a hat, scarf or gloves. In the case of tactile hypersensitivity in the hand area, children often do not want to touch different textures, and therefore avoid playing in the sandbox, making plasticine, painting with their fingers, or using glue. In the case of oral hypersensitivity, on the other hand, we have to deal with food selectivity, which results in eating only certain foods (of a certain consistency - often so-called dry foods, such as bread, pasta without additives) or refusing to eat at all in the kindergarten, especially when no one takes the child's preferences into account.
Hearing impaired child
Hearing hypersensitivity is also often associated with isolating oneself from the group to minimize the risk of exposure to unpleasant sensations. Children who are hypersensitive to noise feel uncomfortable in noisy environments, and are often distracted, agitated or stressed. They may react inappropriately - blocking their ears to certain sounds, screaming, or even hiding in tight spaces when loud. They may not like music, especially loud music, but are often noisy themselves.
Child exploring vestibular and proprioceptive sensations
A large proportion of children with sensory processing disorder are those who are constantly on the move, constantly moving, fidgeting, bumping into things, and are usually noisy and inattentive. These are children whose nervous system receives too little information from movement and pressure, so they feel an irresistible need to provide it to themselves through rapid body movements and frequent changes of position. Due to their high mobility, these children quite often have accidents and find it difficult to sit still during activities, whether on the carpet or at a table. They require constant attention, as their excessive need to move makes it difficult for them to concentrate on the task at hand.
Vestibular hypersensitive child
Vestibular hypersensitivity means that the child perceives too much sensation from movement, so movement is avoided whenever possible, especially if it is a new, unfamiliar activity. Children with vestibular hypersensitivity often dislike swinging on a seesaw or spinning on a merry-go-round, and are afraid of climbing and heights. They may react with anxiety when someone tries to move them around in space. These children tend to choose quiet and static activities, and on the playground they often sit and watch others or choose non-movement play, such as playing in the sandbox. By limiting motor play, they are depriving themselves of many valuable experiences and therefore have less developed large motor skills.
These examples are the most common types of sensory integration disorder in children and their consequences. Of course, every child is different and their difficulties may manifest themselves in different ways. It is important to be aware of how each disorder may affect the child's functioning in kindergarten and to know how to support the child in order to make things easier for him or her. The first step is of course diagnosis and therapy for sensory integration. The second is to find a suitable kindergarten. The number of children in a group, especially with children who are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli, is not without significance - the smaller the group, the better. It is also better when there are fewer colours in the nursery and when the rooms are large and spacious. A sensory-friendly environment is one thing, but the most important thing really is a teacher who shows understanding for the child's difficulties and knows what they are caused by.
special educator, specialist in sensory integration