What assumptions can be made about students' understanding their own neurological capacity and the value of sensory learning? Does this make teaching more simplistic for the educator?
No assumptions should be made about students' understanding of their own neurological capacity and the value of sensory learning. Nor should any assumptions be made regarding the parents/guardians of such students. Each student and family has to be approached on an individual basis, as ages of the children vary, parents similarly vary in terms of level of education and awareness of neurological conditions and different approaches to learning, and the need to respect confidentiality between educator and student/family is of paramount importance.
Obviously, the older the child, and the less severe the level of autism or other mental handicap, the greater the capacity on the part of the student to understand his or her situation, and the more receptive he or she may be to the special methods employed in his or her education. Even among children who have not been diagnosed with a learning disability, the levels of understanding will vary greatly, as will the prescriptive methods applied. With increased awareness of the very real distinctions between the genders with respect to learning abilities, the application of innovative teaching techniques presents both a promise of better educational experiences for all students, and poses a challenge to teachers in integrated classrooms, as most classrooms are generally structured.
Sensory learning is an effort to help children learn through physical activity that engages multiple senses, including touch, sound and taste (where applicable), while encouraging group or team activities so that children develop the ability to work together in a coordinated manner. They become more comfortable in a social environment and learn to cooperate for the purpose of achieving an objective.
The main challenge for teachers is the breakdown in standardized teaching methods historically employed. No longer are students treated as identical or, at least, very similar automatons. Rather, there is more attention on individuality, which actually places greater stress on teachers already spread thin by virtue of overcrowded classrooms. In addition, sensory learning can involve unconventional or messy activities that place great stress on teachers with unruly children who require extra attention. The "hands-on" experience can be difficult to control depending upon the circumstances, such as class size, number of students with behavior issues, and so on.
As noted, no assumptions should be made regarding students' understanding of their own neurological capacity and the value of sensory learning. Part of the educator's task is to ensure that each student is assessed for learning difficulties and that appropriate measures are recommended and adapted accordingly. Many children, obviously those in the K-5 grades, are too young to fully grasp the complex challenges they face. To the extent that sensory learning involves activities or exercises that enable such children to express themselves and to interact with other children on a similar level, then they begin to adapt to the system or processes by which they are taught. How much they "understand," however, may be unknown.