Blogging A-Z: J is for jawbreakers. And a wide assortment of other goodies designed to meet the needs of kids with sensory integration (SI) disorders. I’ve had students chew on multi-flavored jawbreakers in an effort to reduce their need for greater oral stimulation. Other kids wore special “necklaces” of rubbery items to chew as a replacement for gnawing holes in their shirts. Some kids with attention disorders were presumed to perform better while chewing gum. This approach to sensory integration has changed markedly over the past 20 years as research has not substantiated any efficacy with learning disabled or mentally handicapped students.
However, kids on the autism spectrum often present unique challenges with regards to sensory input. These kids may overreact to sounds, lights, touch, and other sensory input. They may drool, have difficulty chewing, and generally make a real mess while eating. Clothing with tags may be unbearable, as are certain types of fabric or styles. Loud noises, like those associated with a gym, cafeteria, or fire drill, may cause them great discomfort. Kids with autism spectrum disorders may crave swinging or other rocking and twirling motions. I have certainly tried to accommodate these issues with ASD students and feel confident that intervention is appropriate.
Despite the research cited above, many parents still take their kids to centers which provide sensory integration therapy. Although it could be that maturation is just as effective (and cheaper), one size does not fit all. We may say that as a group, learning problems are not associated with sensory integration issues, but what about individual differences? I’ve seen kids thrive from SI treatment. “Let them eat jawbreakers” is my motto!