In the Classroom: Sensory Adaptations – Preventing Bad Behavior

In the Classroom: Sensory Adaptations – Preventing Bad Behavior

By: Julie Harrelson

In my class at LLH we have been working with a student who has a fascination with touching other peoples’ hair. In some cases this is an acceptable behavior, however after several months of repeated touching of hair this has become annoying. The behavior occurs throughout the day, but especially during our seated circle times.

Many options have been offered to curb the behavior. For instance; using a fidget toy, verbal reminders, physical prompts, picture cues and moving him to another spot. None of the above have extinguished the behavior of touching his friends’ hair.

This child first presented with symptoms of Tactile Defensiveness.  He did not enjoy messy play or fine motor activities. When he first joined my classroom he did not like touching items and messy play was torture to him. He avoided doing fine motor activities. When we insisted he would show a great deal of defensiveness backing away from touching or working.

Over the past two years he has made such great strides.  He is even working on cutting with scissors. This is an activity he was repelled to the first year. A common reaction to work was holding up his hands with splayed fingers and saying NO! This reaction has dissipated completely and he readily works and works hard! He has done daily activities with messy play as well as fine motor work. This is what I attribute to his progression.

I am very proud of him.

To tie this in to the sensory adaption to curb hair touching…..

With all of this hard work he is no longer tactilely defensive, but now has a great fascination with hair. His own hair first, but others as well. The problematic time was during circle time when he was sitting next to a certain friend. Objects in his lap were tried, but often lofted at me while I was teaching (I find this kind of funny). Until one day while I was a bit desperate I looked in the toy room and found a small toy mop.  One of those that come in a play kitchen set. I mounted the mop onto his chair running in an angle, but between him and the object of his hair fascination.

At first he did not find it interesting, but after showing him that he could touch the mop throughout his circle time, he was thrilled! Now he runs his fingers through the mop “hair” and leaves his friend alone.  He is happy and his friend is as well.


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