School Using Sensory Room To Help Reach Children With Developmental Disabilities

AP – The bright colors, dazzling lights and textured gizmos in the new “sensory” room at a school for students with developmental disabilities actually has a calming effect.
“It helps students become alert, focused and calm, which prepares their minds and bodies for learning,” said Steve Carr, principal of the West Central school run by the Franklin County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Multisensory rooms have been gaining popularity in the United States
and Europe, but this is the first one in Franklin County’s mental
retardation program.

The rooms are built around the concept that the brain uses information from sensory experiences — movement, sight, sound and touch — to form behavior, learning and perception, according to Sensory Integration International, a nonprofit group in Torrance, Calif.

Students difficult to motivate or keep on task benefit by becoming
stimulated to the environment around them, said Vicky Basinger, a visual
specialist at West Central.

Baylee Sharp loves to pick up the fiber-optic threads in the room like spaghetti and run them through her hands.

“It’s not only fun, but it is helping Baylee build her eye-hand coordination and encourages her to sit up and work on her upper body strength,” teacher Debbie Osborn said of the 5-year-old.

Lasean “Deonte” Lane giggled as he pulled the technicolored tentacles
of what resembles a huge fiber-optic octopus while lying in a vibrating
massage chair.

“We notice a change in the children’s behavior when we are in the room,” Osborn said of the autistic 10-year-old. “The environment relieves stress, which carries over to the classroom. That’s a huge difference to when they’re acting out, hitting, kicking and throwing tantrums.”

With it’s fiber-optic waterfall that cascades onto the children with a spray of lights, a panoramic projector and sunken ball pool, the $8,000 room resembles a high-tech toy store.

There’s also a coloring table illuminated by black lights and lots of squishy toys that can be heated in the microwave or thrown into the freezer so kids can play with temperature. Soothing music adds to the experience.

“It gives so many of our children, who have heightened or reduced senses, a whole new way of experiencing the world,” said Jed Morison, the board’s superintendent.

The school raised the money for the room through bake sales and other
fund-raisers. Teachers hope to raise $40,000 more for a heated water bed,
stress-reduction chair, interactive musical squares and other sensory
gadgets.

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