Levon Hutchinson The Sensory Garden
LecturersSteve Reay, Daniel Sutton
School presents many challenges that can be scary, overwhelming, and demanding for young minds. This is particularly the case for those with sensory processing difficulties (SPD), which affect between 5-16% of the general population of school-aged children. SPD compromises a child’s ability to self-regulate, meaning to manage our energy state, emotions, and behaviour to suit our environment. As a result, it is common for children with SPD to struggle to pay attention, socialise, and learn as effectively as typically developing children. Teachers are the primary support for a child at school. Therefore, it is important that teachers have the knowledge and appropriate resources to help all children in their care thrive.
Many children in mainstream school classrooms are disadvantaged by SPD and/or other developmental conditions, and do not receive the level of support available to those in special school settings. Sensory tools are widely recognised in special schools and therapy as valuable tools for helping children with SPD self-regulate. However, my research found sensory tools to be less understood and utilised in the mainstream school space.
The Sensory Garden is a toolkit designed to help mainstream primary school teachers and teacher aides support children in their class with sensory needs by providing the tools to help reach a calm and alert state ready for learning. Whether it’s a child who fidgets on the mat, disrupts other children, or is anxious because of the noise in the classroom, the sensory garden is designed to be easy for a teacher to utilise into school routine when a child needs help returning to a learning state of mind. It consists of three main elements: 5 sensory objects, an educational book, and packaging. The objects’ simple, clean aesthetic encourages open-minded play and fosters a child’s imagination. Each object can be interpreted in multiple ways and exercise different sensory systems that cater to children with unique and personal sensory needs. This way, children can explore the kit and find an object that works for them. The “Garden Time” book is designed to help children recognise their feelings and learn to ‘take a 5-minute break’ by using the objects in the garden to help them feel better and ready to learn. The book helps both teachers and children mutually understand who can use the kit, when it should be used, and how it should be used in the classroom.
The Sensory Garden aims to help teachers to manage a class full of children and create a happy and productive learning environment for all.