The new school year is freshly upon us and there is no better time to help children and students that are struggling with concentration skills to reach their full potential.

Debbie Hopper, a paediatric Occupational Therapist with reports that often children’s behaviour is mis-understood and that some children may be mis-diagnosed as suffering from autism and ADHD.  They may be labelled as being “misbehaving” children, and struggle at school to be able to sit, concentrate and learn.  Research has shown that children who are diagnosed with a particular disorder often have underlying sensory processing issues that impact on their behaviour and learning.

Diana Henry is an Occupational Therapist, researcher and international expert in applying practical sensory-motor strategies to assist teachers, parents, families and health professionals understand children who struggle with behavioural, developmental and social learning challenges. Throughout February and March 2011, Diana is touring to Newcastle, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra for a series of workshops aimed at demonstrating practical strategies to help children concentrate, learn and relax in learning and social environments.

These workshops are being co-ordinated by Debbie Hopper, an Australian Occupational Therapist with She has a passion for helping kids of all ages to be able to learn practical and drug-free strategies that they can use at home and school, to get their body in the “just right” zone neurologically so they can concentrate and learn.

According to the book, The Out-of-Sync Child written by Carol Stock Kranowitz M.A. (available from, “Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can cause a bewildering variety of symptoms. When their central nervous systems are ineffective in processing sensory information, children have a hard time functioning in daily life. They may look fine and have superior intelligence, but may be awkward and clumsy, fearful and withdrawn, or hostile and aggressive. SPD can affect not only how they move and learn, but also how they behave, how they play and make friends, and especially how they feel about themselves”.

A parent’s perspective
Often parents struggle with understanding why their child has difficulty with behaviour, learning, concentration or relaxation skills. Once they understand the basics of what sensory processing is, it can make life a lot easier and less stressful.  Here is an example from our recent Christmas.

Did you get to go to the Carols by Candlelight in your home town? What was your experience? I have two preschool children, one is a sensory seeker and the other is a sensory avoider. The sensory avoider had their head buried into my arms causing my arm to drip in sweat and would not separate from me for over 45 minutes even though we were with familiar friends. The other child (sensory seeker) ran up to the front of the concert with other children and jumped around right in front of the bank of speakers and put his ear up against them. Being aware of their sensory backgrounds gave me the confidence of how to “roll with it” and not get stressed and hence stress them out and cause the evening to be a disaster for everyone.  By having an understanding about their sensory preferences, parents, teachers and other carers can use practical strategies to support the child’s nervous system. Parents can understand why they do the things they do, or why children may react emotionally (as in having meltdowns) in certain situations.

Why is this important?  So many children struggle at school as they physically and neurologically can’t sit still or “tune in” to the teacher.  By using easy and practical sensory based strategies, all children can be supported to be in the “just right” zone, which means they will be able to concentrate and access the curriculum.  What more could a parent wish for?

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