How to Deal with Sensory Overload at School

Sensory overload is a condition where one’s senses are overwhelmed by the stimuli they are receiving. This can happen in various environments, but it’s particularly common in bustling places like schools. For students who experience sensory overload, the school environment can become a challenging place to navigate. However, with the right coping strategies and supportive measures, dealing with sensory overload at school can be made manageable.

Understanding Sensory Overload

black-and-white-photo-of-a-boy-crying-and-holding-his hands over his ears sensory overload

Before we delve into how to deal with sensory overload at school, it’s important to understand what this condition entails. Sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body’s senses experience overstimulation from the environment. This could be due to bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, or even the constant buzz of people moving around in a crowded space like a school.

For some students, sensory overload can lead to feelings of anxiety and discomfort. Because their surroundings are so overwhelming to their senses, they might find it difficult to focus on their work or engage in social interactions. It’s not uncommon for these students to experience headaches, restlessness, and fatigue as well.

Coping Strategies for Sensory Overload

There are several coping strategies that students can employ to manage sensory overload at school. These techniques aim at reducing the intensity of sensory input or helping students process this input more effectively.

1. Use Noise-Cancelling Headphones: One effective way of dealing with auditory sensory overload is through the use of noise-cancelling headphones. These devices can help reduce background noise and make it easier for students to focus on their tasks.

2. Take Regular Breaks: Taking short breaks throughout the day can also help manage sensory overload. During these breaks, students can engage in calming activities such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation.

3. Create a Sensory-Friendly Study Space: If possible, students can create a sensory-friendly study space in their school. This could be a quiet corner in the library or a designated area in the classroom where they can retreat when their senses feel overwhelmed.

4. Use Sensory Tools: There are various sensory tools available that can help students manage sensory overload. These include fidget toys, weighted blankets, and chewable jewellery. These tools provide a calming sensory input that can help counteract the overwhelming sensory stimuli.

Adapting the School Environment

In addition to individual coping strategies, changes in the school environment can also significantly help students dealing with sensory overload. Here are some ways schools can adapt their environment to be more accommodating:

1. Reduce Noise Levels: Schools can take measures to reduce noise levels, such as implementing quiet hours during certain times of the day or using sound-absorbing materials in classrooms and hallways.

2. Adjust lighting: Bright fluorescent lights can be overwhelming for some students. Schools could consider using natural light or softer lighting options wherever possible.

3. Provide Sensory Spaces: Schools could designate specific areas as ‘sensory spaces’ where students can go when they need a break from sensory stimulation. These spaces should be quiet, dimly lit, and equipped with calming resources like soft furnishings and sensory tools.


Dealing with sensory overload at school may seem daunting, but with the right coping strategies and supportive measures, it’s entirely possible for students to thrive in their learning environment. By understanding what triggers their sensory overload and employing techniques to manage it, students can navigate their school day more comfortably.

Moreover, schools have a crucial role to play in creating an inclusive environment for all learners. By making small adjustments like reducing noise levels and providing designated sensory spaces, schools can make a big difference in supporting students who experience sensory overload.

Remember, everyone’s experience with sensory overload is unique; what works for one person might not work for another. It’s important to keep trying different strategies until you find what works best for you. With patience and persistence, dealing with sensory overload at school can become a manageable part of your daily routine.

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