Inclusive Classrooms

Make the Classroom Sensory-Friendly Today

Two elementary students listening to story time in inclusive classroom

Learn simple ways you can make your classroom sensory-friendly to help students with sensory issues feel more comfortable and ready to focus on learning and socializing. Ideas include ways to adapt the classroom space, learning materials, lighting, noises, and smells.

I've always been highly affected by my surroundings. I can't tell you how many times I've changed doctors, dentists, hotel rooms, and even classrooms. It might not necessarily be a sensory-processing issue, but there is no doubt that I'll react either physically or emotionally if the room does not "feel good."

Therefore, I've been very aware of the children in my class who might also need a modification in the classroom space, materials, light, noise, or smells. In fact, when I have students who begin to demonstrate inappropriate behavior, the first thing I do is change the child's immediate surroundings. Often, that is all that needed in order to correct the misbehavior.

Below is a sample of strategies that can be used to make a classroom sensory-friendly. By making a classroom sensory-friendly, children who have sensory-processing issues can truly focus on the learning activities without distraction or discomfort. These strategies can be used hourly, daily, monthly, or for the entire year. The purpose is to give teachers and parents ways to help keep children happy, engaged, and learning in the inclusive class. 

Classroom space

  • big tables
  • small tables
  • groups of tables
  • desks in groups
  • desks in pairs
  • individual workstations
  • quiet area
  • carpet area
  • cozy reading space
  • clutter control
  • color coordination
  • play areas with boundaries
  • open windows
  • temperature change

Classroom materials

  • bins for keeping materials organized
  • centers with a variety of activities
  • mini-carpets to sit on at circle time or center time
  • a variety of books to read at various reading levels
  • fidgets
  • visual timers
  • visual planners
  • bean bag chairs
  • audio-visual materials

Lighting

  • natural light
  • lamps
  • one or two flourescent lights on
  • light diffuser
  • closed blinds

Noise

  • quiet work time
  • talking work time
  • music playing in the background
  • ticking clock
  • "white noise" — for example, a circulating fan

Smells

  • "no perfume" zone
  • food kept in airtight containers
  • no smelly markers or crayons
  • fresh air flowing
  • desks cleaned out regularly

Nicole Eredics is an educator who specializes in the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom. She draws upon her years of experience as a full inclusion teacher to write, speak, and consult on the topic of inclusive education to various national and international organizations. She specializes in giving practical and easy-to-use solutions for inclusion. Nicole is creator of The Inclusive Class blog and author of a new guidebook for teachers and parents called, Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. For more information about Nicole and all her work, visit her website

Nicole Eredics (2013)

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