I have worked in the early childhood field for over 30 years. In this time, like so many long-term teachers, I have seen the rise of children who struggle with the ability to process and cope with the sensations in their environments. As a young teacher, I did not understand just how disruptive sensory processing could be for some children. I wasn’t sensitive to their sensitivity.
One young child struggled with loud sounds. Not understanding this, I took my children to the zoo on a practice day for the annual air and water show. If you have not had the opportunity to hear how loud a F10 fighter plane can be when flying at full speed over a zoo, I sincerely think you are lucky. The sonic boom caused my poor, sensory-sensitive guy to crouch into a fetal position with his hands covering his ears and eyes shut tight. I had to carry him to the van just so we could get back to our daycare. His flight response was so great that he froze in place in this self-preserving stance.
I wish I could say that I reflected and learned how to ensure he was not exposed to overwhelming sounds ever again while in my care. That was not the case. Later that year, he was exposed to the terrifying sound of my neighbor's snow blower.
While it took me longer than it should have to respond to the sensory needs of children, observing this little guy sparked a curiosity in me to understand sensory processing in young children. That focus has guided my professional inquiry and self-study ever since, and has helped me to understand how to construct classroom experiences that are sensory-sensitive to each child’s needs.