Sensory Room 101
A sensory room, which is a therapeutic space equipped with a variety of equipment that provides students with special needs with personalised sensory input, assists these children in calming and focusing themselves so that they are better prepared for learning and interacting with others in the classroom. It was published in April by Edutopia, which included a video about the sensory room at Hanover Elementary School in Meriden, Connecticut, which provides support services for students with a variety of special needs.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A SENSORY ROOM?
Services that have been improved: Students with special needs in Meriden Public Schools were previously sent outside of the district to receive services, according to the district. Sullivan-Kowalski, director of pupil personnel at Meriden High School, says this has resulted in students feeling less connected to their community as a result of the situation. Administrators gained the ability to keep students in their community and provide them with a safe place in the least restrictive environment by creating their sensory room.
Fine motor skills are being developed by a student at Hanover Elementary School with the help of magnetic letters.
Improved student outcomes are a result of She claims that the sensory room at Hanover has had a positive impact on students, who “are better able to follow directions and spend more time on task,” according to Sullivan Kowalski. According to the researcher, “we are seeing a decrease in negative behaviours.” The students are extremely enthusiastic. They express a desire to visit the sensory room.”
Setting up a sensory room is less expensive than transporting students to a support facility or tutoring session. Mark Benigni, the superintendent of the Meriden district, reallocated support services funds to pay for Hanover’s sensory room, which includes the room and its equipment, as well as staff and professional development opportunities.
HOW IS THE SENSORY ROOM USED? WHAT STUDENT OBJECTIVES DOES IT MEET?
Since its inception, the Hanover sensory room has served a wide range of students, including those with vision difficulties, language difficulties, learning disabilities, and emotional disturbances. It is also available to all kindergarten students and any other student who requires a safe, quiet environment to calm their body. According to Peter Poutiatine, Edutopia’s school selection coordinator, who researches effective school practices, “we frequently find that practises designed to meet the needs of the most challenging students in a school are also effective for all students.”
In a classroom, a group of students and adults sit on bouncing balls that have been strategically placed.
Edutopia is a website dedicated to education.
Students at Hanover Elementary School begin their time in the sensory room by bouncing in time to a metronome to develop concentration and concentration.
Educators at Meriden focused on incorporating proprioception, the awareness of where your body is in space, and the vestibular system, which is responsible for your sense of balance when designing the sensory room. Students who have difficulties with proprioception appear clumsy; for example, they are unable to get into line without stepping on the toes of the student in front of them. These students are subjected to a great deal of so-called heavy work, such as bouncing and jumping, to help them develop this sense. Students who have vestibular difficulties have difficulty maintaining their balance, so they use a platform swing to help them improve this sense. Students working on their proprioceptive and vestibular systems gain a better understanding of how their bodies move and how they can control their movements by working on these systems.
A sensory room can be used to accomplish a variety of goals, depending on the individual needs of each student. It is shown in the video above that the Hanover room contains a variety of stations that were created primarily to assist students with proprioceptive and vestibular issues in becoming more self-reliant. The room is approximately 1,200 square feet in size and was previously used as a kindergarten.
Students with special needs who work with an occupational therapist and a physical therapist attend the sensory room for a half-hour each day to help them relax. Individual students’ needs are taken into consideration by Meriden educators when modifying the following programme:
- Bouncing ball: To begin, students always bounce on a ball in time to the beat of a metronome. A bouncing ball is used to begin and end each session, which makes the transition from one to the next much easier and more predictable. Following that, students can either follow a predetermined rotation among the stations or make their selections.
- After the ball, a student may choose one or more activities from a list of options and complete a circuit rotation, visiting each station for three to five minutes. This provides a great deal of sensory input while also exposing students to the various areas of the room, which is beneficial. Alternatively, a student may choose the desired activity and participate in it for a specified period. Students must spend sufficient time in a
- chosen station to experience the desired effect.
In the Hanover sensory room, images of yoga poses have been posted on the walls by the occupational and physical therapists, and they are available to assist as needed.
Bouncing ball: After each session, students bounce on a ball.
Who was in charge of the interior design of the room?
- The room was designed by Kathleen Fritz Romania, the head of occupational therapy at Meriden Public Schools, and Heather McDonnell, the lead physical therapist at the school. To ensure that the programming supported specific goals regarding behaviour, communication and academic skills, they collaborated with other professionals such as the district’s lead behaviour analyst, speech and language pathologist, and special education teacher.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO GET STARTED WITH A SENSORY ROOM?
The team at Meriden agrees that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started in this business. According to McDonnell, a physical therapist, “if you put down carpet, paint the walls a calming colour, and hang light fabric over the lights, your students will notice a difference right away when they walk into the room.”
Additionally, you can utilise low-cost equipment: therapy balls, battle ropes, and scooter boards are all inexpensive and have a wide range of applications when working with students. Alternatively, you can create your sensory bins using disposable plastic dishwashing containers filled with rice and dried beans.
WHAT EQUIPMENT DOES THE SENSORY ROOM HAVE?
The sensory room at Hanover Elementary School is equipped with equipment that is intended to provide students with a variety of sensory inputs to help them learn. As an illustration:
Bouncing balls: When students enter the sensory room, they immediately proceed to the bounce area where they will perform an exercise called an opening circle, in which they will bounce on balls in time with a metronome, as soon as they enter. This activity provides full-body input, but it has the potential to overstimulate some students, so it should be closely supervised at all times. Staff members also use the balls to “squish” students, pressing into their backs while they are lying on the floor, which applies deep pressure to the student’s backs. The Bosu (half ball), therapy balls, and Lily Pads are all recommended by Meriden educators. The balls are intended solely for therapeutic purposes and should not be used for recreational purposes.
After bouncing, students proceed to the whiteboard station, where they can use magnetic letters or do Lazy 8s with markers to improve their fine motor skills while developing their coordination. This station also serves as a selection area, where students can choose which stations they would like to visit. Once they have selected a station, they must remain at that station for three to five minutes before either transitioning around the room or returning to the whiteboard to make another selection.
A girl taps different squares on a wall to make them light up as they are illuminated.
Edutopia is a website dedicated to education.
Students at Hanover Elementary School use the light wall to improve their sense of where they are about other people and objects.
Punching bag and battle ropes: The light wall allows for heavy work while still providing students with the safe proprioceptive input they require to calm their bodies and feel more oriented in space. The students can use heavy red balls to strike the lights. There are numerous games to choose from, such as Simon and Connect Four. Students at Hanover can use the light wall either individually or in groups of two. Heavier work can be done with a punching bag and thick battle ropes, which are also available.
WHEN DO STUDENTS USE THE SENSORY ROOM?
Students can use visual feedback while playing at this station, which is equipped with a mirror wall. You can make one by attaching shatterproof mirror tiles to a wall in the desired location. When using a small dollop of shaving cream, students can write or draw on the mirror, providing an opportunity for a calming tactile input.
Student fine-motor skills are enhanced by the use of a Lego wall, which is constructed by screwing Lego bases to the wall so that students build out from the wall rather than the floor or a table. Students’ enthusiasm for Legos is well-documented, and according to Sullivan-Kowalski, director of pupil personnel at Meriden High School, “Occupational therapists are enthusiastic about them as well.” Building things is a great way to organise a child and it also serves as a calming activity for the child involved.
Using calming visuals and sounds, the sensory bubble tube—a glass tube that is lit from within and filled with bubbles that create shifting patterns of light—is located in a quiet area and contributes to the relaxing environment by enhancing the relaxing environment. A book or quiet activity can be brought into this area, and students can relax on beanbag chairs while they organise their belongings and prepare to return to class after a short break.
Students wear body socks in the quiet area because they provide deep joint input that is calming to most children. Body socks are full-size suits that are worn over students’ clothes to provide deep joint input. Students can see out when they are wearing the socks, but they cannot be seen from the outside. Those students who require quiet time, prefer to be in small spaces and require little hands-on assistance will benefit greatly from this arrangement. Student preferences should be sought, according to Sullivan-Kowalski, and “their wishes must be respected” if they do not want to be enclosed in a sock.
Product image of a child wearing a body sock, which is a soft bag-like outfit sold by schoolspecialty.com
Students can benefit from wearing body socks like this one to help them relax.
Tactile centre: At Hanover, educators set up plastic bins and containers filled with beans, rice, and sand to serve as tactile centres. Students work independently or with the assistance of activity cards to create sequences and patterns, working with only one material at a time to avoid mixing. Due to the calming and therapeutic nature of the materials in this section, this activity requires very little effort from students while providing a great deal of sensory input through the hands and fingers of the participants.
DOES THE SENSORY ROOM BENEFIT KIDS WHO HAVE LIVED THROUGH TRAUMA?
Those who row on a rowing machine get safe heavy work, which helps them improve their focus and orientation while also helping them to relax their muscles and minds. Staff members may allow students to push and pull the oars with their legs if they are too heavy for them to lift and carry. Dr Heather McDonnell, the lead physical therapist at the University of Connecticut, warns that educators should exercise caution when using rowing machines to ensure that students achieve the desired effect while also avoiding damage to the machines.
Students benefit from the use of a platform swing because it provides the appropriate vestibular input needed to help them relax and become more focused. Students at Hanover are only permitted to sit or lie on their stomachs on the swing; standing is not permitted. It can only be used by one child at a time, according to the rules. Some students may believe that it is for recreational purposes, so it is critical to enforce the following rules: It is recommended that students use swings outside if they have not been identified as having needs that require a specific protocol, according to Sullivan-Kowalski
At Hanover, there are five classes of eight or nine students with autism who are taught by the same teacher. During the school day, each of these classes visits the sensory room for half an hour. Physical and/or occupational therapists can also be scheduled for one hour per week with specialists on an as-needed basis. The physical therapist and occupational therapist work together with the other specialists to develop programming, music, and lesson plans for the students to follow.
Meriden has a total of three sensory rooms, each of which is designed to meet the needs of a different student population. As part of a team that includes a school psychologist or a social worker who has received trauma-informed training, it is critical to obtain input on what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour when working with students who have experienced trauma.
Exactly who is in charge of the Sensory Room?
Each of the three sensory rooms is supervised by members of the team who have undergone extensive training. Kathleen Fritz Romania, the head of occupational therapy at Meriden Public Schools, and Heather McDonnell, the lead physical therapist at the school, are in charge of training these employees.
WHO MANAGES THE SENSORY ROOM?
Make sure your facilities team is on board with the initiative. According to Romania, the company was able to assist them with construction early in the process and provide them with information about what they could and couldn’t move. This made the logistics of the actual physical space run much more smoothly, according to the author.
Flaghouse.com product image of a young woman sitting cross-legged on a flat square platform swing.
The vestibular input provided by platform swings such as this one aids in the improvement of students’ overall sense of balance.
Plan and document how your staff will use and maintain the room, as well as ensure that they are properly trained in its use and maintenance. “Everyone must understand the purpose of the room, what each piece of furniture is for, and how to properly store each item after it has been used.” “Students must also adhere to a schedule to avoid arriving at school and acting like they’re at Disneyland, bopping all over the place, and then leaving it in complete disarray,” Romania explains.
Reward and reinforce appropriate behaviour. You should collaborate closely with the school team and the behavioural specialist, especially when working with students who are on a behaviour plan, to ensure that students receive the appropriate message from their time in the sensory room. Sullivan-Kowalski, the director of pupil personnel, advises against sending children to the sensory room for acting out because it “reinforces the message that if you act out in your classroom, you’ll come out and do this.” For the sensory room to be effective, it must be included in a behavioural plan as a reward or a break.”
If at all possible, situate your sensory room in the heart of your building’s main entrance. Fortunately, the school’s sensory room is located right next to its administrative offices. This makes it simple to keep track of the room’s activities and ensure that the staff is using it correctly and that the equipment is being maintained correctly. The sensory rooms in the other two schools in the district that have them are located in the farthest corner of the building from the office, making it more difficult to keep an eye on them.