Remember those days when as a student you heard the bell ring indicating the beginning of recess.
If this time gave you great joy, why?
- Was it just giving your brain a break from desk work?
- Was it being able to climb, hang, slide, swing and run freely?
- Was it knowing you could get together again with your BFF to chat, whisper and laugh out loud?
- Or was it getting together with a group of friends collaborating and using your creativity to invent games, play tag, soccer or basketball?
If this time made you cringe, why?
- Did you dislike the loudness of the bell and cringe at the thought of the screeching sounds you would hear on the playground?
- Did you fear being accidently bumped because you knew from experience that it would hurt and would cause you to feel angry?
- Did you know that although you really wanted to join in you could not figure out how to coordinate your body on the playground equipment or follow the sequence of a game?
- Did you lack the ability to come up with new ideas or know how to join in with others?
- Were you sad that you would probably once again, end up alone?
Understanding the sensory benefits of recess and play when all is working well or the sensory challenges which keep children from participating is a responsibility we all must embrace. We now have “sensory tools” to help us move forward in making recess and the playground a safe, healthy and fun place for all.
The Sensory Processing Measure (SPM) is a standardized rating scale which assists occupational therapists, teachers and parents be “good detectives” during recess (SPM Playground /Recess Form). Data regarding sound or touch sensitivity (over responsivity), poor coordination (motor planning), creativity (ideation) and friendships (social participation) can specifically be collected from the key stakeholders (recess assistant, teacher and parents). The data is analyzed by the occupational therapist. Then (with the key stakeholders) individual data driven intervention plans using sensory-based strategies/outdoor activities may be embedded onto the playground, in the classrooms, and at home.
Diana Henry, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA