Getting in Touch with The Sensory Avoider

 She walked in and without taking a breath stated with the authority of the House of Representatives Sergeant of Arms introducing the President of the United States, “I am not touching GAK.”

“Hi, I’m Ms. Peggie. You do NOT have to touch anything you do not want to touch.”

Oh, no, my Back to School Night speech to parents has backfired.  I had spent lots of time talking about messy play, the benefits, the research that supports it all wrapped around the “This is why they need a change of clothes” slide show (this is one of the greatest idea from Lisa Murphy at to introduce parents to the importance of play).

The new parents sending their first born ran home to tell New Girl all the great things she gets to do at her new school.  New Girl hears “GAK”, “touch” and “Messy”.  She is drawing a line in the moon sand. “Nope” that is not happening to me. “See, I have on my birthday shoes.”

Feeling safe and secure is the most basic of ground rules before anything else.  New Girl was not going to be open to learning if the worry of the mythical GAK was present.  I want to give the opportunity to engage not force.  By giving her the control over what she touches, it also lays the groundwork for the fact that she can be responsible for her learning.  Once again, not getting them ready for kindergarten, but getting them ready for college. For life.

So how can I get New Girl to take that step towards being engaged?

 Sensory Bags.  Mess in a Bag!

It was the same thing I did for her parents.  At parent’s night, I place zip lock bags full of goop, GAK, colorful gel and paints around the room. As I talked, they slowly reach out to touch them. By the end of the night a few are completely involved, drawing designs, squishing it in their fingers and erasing their fingerprints with a swipe of their hand. They were fully engaged and did not see it coming.

So on the first day for New Girl, the bright colors pulled her in. My modeling gave her courage.  Her curiosity got her engaged.  By the end of the morning she had done everything possible with those bags…squished, stacked, drawn, inspected and shared.  As she bounced around the room, exploring her new space, she repeatedly came back to the bags, that is, if they weren’t in her hand. 

“Bye, Ms. Peggie.  Keep my GAK right there for tomorrow.”