Parent to Parent

Students who can't control their impulses and pay attention are popping up in classrooms across the nation.

Try these calming strategies to help your children and students focus and succeed:

"Some children seek out more, more, more," says Michelle Yoder, an occupational therapist in Pineville, N.C. "They are disruptive, up and down in their seats, are loud talkers, chew on nonfood items and have to touch everything. They come up with any excuse to move, such as dropping a pencil on the floor because they want to go upside down to get it."

The behavior gets many kids mislabeled as having ADHD, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Yoder says. But instead, they are having difficulty regulating the information taken in through their senses. The nervous system either overreacts or underreacts to what's going on around them. At either extreme, craving stimulation or avoiding it, the problem can be a sensory processing disorder that disrupts a child's daily life.

Often, children with sensory issues are considered trouble- makers because they are unable to sit still, listen and keep their hands to themselves, Yoder says.

All students, no matter their sensory issues, benefit when they have chances to move around during the school day and do "heavy work," says Diana A. Henry, an occupational therapist who travels in an "Ateachabout RV" presenting workshops on sensory processing.

Kids need jobs. Find outside work for all seasons: Digging holes for plants, raking leaves, shoveling snow, washing the car, pushing a wheelbarrow and pulling a loaded wagon. Set your grocery bags inside the door and have your child push them into the kitchen.

Work that lets kids use their muscles is calming and helps them focus, says Henry, whose Web site is ateachabout.com. Less time for outdoor play puts more pressure on teachers, she says, to find strategies to manage their classrooms. Henry suggests:

Other ideas for resources:

-- Go to southpawenterprises.com for tools and equipment for therapists, teachers and parents to help children get their bodies and brains working together.

-- Sensational Kids" (Putnam, 2006, $24.95) by Lucy Jane Miller, Ph.D., occupational therapist and researcher on sensory processing disorders. Miller is founder of the Kid Foundation, kidfoundation.org.

Can you help?

"What do you do when not only a child in your class doesn't listen, but the parents don't listen either? We have a 2-year-old in our class who obviously never hears the word 'no' at home. His parents refuse to follow our school rules, such as wearing closed-toe shoes instead of Crocs." — a preschool teacher in Raleigh.