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Sensory Room provides students sanctuary from stress

October 18, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor (cjeilers@traerstarclipper.com) , Traer Star-Clipper

North Tama special education instructor Jessica Schults has transformed her classroom into a Sensory Room for students with special needs and those in need of an escape from the classroom.

"A Sensory Room gives students a chance to come in to calm down if they need to and regulate their emotions," Schults said. "While they are here, students learn coping strategies for when they are overstimulated and give them a break from the classroom. They can just chill and calm down."

Schults has several students on the autism spectrum this year, who require sensory breaks throughout the day. Starting last school year, she began incorporating more sensory elements in her room after seeing them in other school districts. Schults discussed the benefits of more sensory items with Susan Olson, who was coming on as Elementary Principal. Together, they decided a room would be beneficial not only special education children, but also general education students who "really could use a break" throughout the day to regulate themselves before returning to class.

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The Sensory Room hosts several stress relieving activities for students with special needs, including a sensory wall, trampoline and color tile walk.

"The school board approved me to start a donation page for the room, so I made a list of items to pick from," Schults said. "Community and family members funded it all and that's amazing. I even got extra money for more stuff in the future."

The room features a sensory wall, which is full of different tactile textures for those who respond best to a sense of touch. A sensory tile walk features colored water tiles that can walked on the colors move around. Glitter bottles, physical activities, sound machine, noise cancelling headphones a trampoline and bean bags are also used in the classroom.

"I have noticed the Sensory Room has increased the student's ability to focus because it gets their wiggles out," Schults said. "I have one student who gets overwhelmed in the classroom, comes here at a scheduled and does his thing, then goes back to the classroom ready to learn. Teachers really think this is really cool."

As time goes on, Schults would like the room to eventually become more accessible for all students to address stress or allow students a place to get some physical activity in. Schults would also like to continue teaching strategies to students for coping with their overstimulation. Schults's room has served as an inspiration for teachers and administration to adopt similar areas, including Olson.

"The start of the Sensory Room has encouraged other teachers to add spaces in their room for quiet breaks in the classroom," Olson said. "If a student feels like they need a break, they can potentially stay in class and got to these little areas for a few minutes. My office has a peaceful room and can sit in their with some of Jess's items. It's completely based off her room."

The whole North Tama Elementary staff is also being trained in Zones of Regulations, a system that allows students and staff to identify which "zone" a student is in emotionally. For example green means "good to go" while red is angry/excited, blue is sad/tired. Olson and elementary staff hope the combination of the Sensory Room and Zones of Regulation will help students identify their emotions to self-regulate, allowing them to be focused and interact in the classroom in a positive manner. For more information about either topic, contact the elementary school at (319) 478-2265.

 
 
 

 

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