4 ways to use multi-sensory learning methods with your child

By Marina Gentile

Over the years, it has become more apparent that there is no perfect learning style. Every child has their own way of understanding and learning things. However, some children with learning difficulties have a tougher time than other students when it comes to understanding the material.

Most teaching techniques require sight to read information or look at pictures and hearing to listen to what the teacher is saying. However using a multi-sensory teaching technique means to help a child learn through more than one sense such as: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste and movement to help the brain develop tactile and kinetic memories.

According to Sylvie Bellemare, an occupational therapist for the Lester B. Pearson School Board, multi-sensory learning enhances the student understanding and makes the learning experience more meaningful to them, and not only a mental effort. As their ability to experience gratification increases, they become better able to manage their frustration and have a positive outlook on school.

“Students with learning difficulties, with motor coordination problems, or attention difficulty all benefit from multi-sensory strategy,” she says. “They often need a multi-modal approach to better understand how their own body works and how it relates to their environment so they can make sense of what is being taught to them. These students need to be aware of their own limitation or specificity and honour it to maximize their learning potential.”

Bellemare says that a specific learning difficulty may occur to children who are intelligent. For example, a child who needs more time to process the information or has di culty to organize and sequence a task. The child may not be able to sustain his/her attention on a task that requires mental effort. A child with a motor planning/ coordination difficulty may understand the task at hand (what to do), but it is a challenge to figure out how to do it (planning, organizing and sequencing).

There are several ways to use multi-sensory teaching techniques; however, here are four multi-sensory techniques suggested by Bellemare to engage with your child at home and different activities you can have them do:

1- Proprioception strategy: the first thing Bellemare suggests is to make sure your child is active. Have them do a few exercises everyday before he/she does homework and/or before supper to build up the core muscle strength and promote a deeper breathing. A few examples of exercises they can do are: sit ups, pushups off the wall, skipping rope, obstacle courses, etc.

2- Visual strategy: “Visual clocks helps to visualize the time and learn to work in a timely manner,” she says. “Graphic organizers are great tools to highlight the links or organize written information. You may draw it on a white board while you explain the task at hand. Your child can use it as a reminder or as an example.”

3- Auditory strategy: If your child is sensitive to noise, Bellemare suggests using white noise background music to block environmental noise. She says it is a good idea to keep explanations simple and make your child rephrase the information in his/her own words to make sure he/she understands the instructions.

4- Oral motor strategy: Bellemare says that chewing or sucking supports optimal brain alertness. Provide straws or chewing gum (bazooka type) during homework period.

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