'SENSE-ATIONAL': Florence 1 schools add new sensory rooms
Florence 1 Schools recently announced the completion of sensory rooms. A sensory third room is soon to be complete.
Made up of several different stations and items, the rooms at Lester Elementary, the R.N. Beck Learning Center and, soon, the Child Development Center at Woods Road, provide students a place to work on motor skills as well as emotional self-regulation.
Occupational therapist Michele Lewis said that the rooms feature areas that help students with a wide range of needs.
“The idea was that all of the classes in these buildings would be rotating through the sensory rooms on a schedule,” Lewis said. “There are different kinds of sensory input in the rooms. There are the more calming, quieter areas like the bubble tubes for students who need some quiet. Then we’ve also got the swing which is more of a heavier vestibular input. There are all kinds of things to crawl on or crawl through, balance beams to walk on; those are more of the heavy work activities. There is even a squeeze machine which students can crawl through and it is like it is giving them a big hug. That deep pressure input is really calming to kids.”
Lewis said that teaching students to self-regulate is extremely important for school environments where they have an optimal “engine speed” for them to focus on what they are learning.
“We talk to the students about finding the right speed for them to learn,” Lewis said. “Some kids will be hyper-responsive where they are tuning into sights and sounds. Other kids might be under-responsive and don’t notice when someone walks into the room. We are trying to get that just-right ready for learning. For some kids that might mean they need to move around for five minutes, or maybe they need to be in a quiet space for a little while before going back into class to learn. The therapists are constantly going into the classrooms so we can talk with teachers about ways that they can facilitate and also letting them know the things we are working on in therapy. Students can practice those skills in the sensory room with their teachers not just with therapists.”
With three and four-year-old students being served at The Child Development Center at Woods Road and the R.N. Beck Child Development Center, motor skills are also a big part of the sensory rooms.
“As far as the fine motor skills, there are busy boards hanging on the wall where students can work on things like zipping,” Lewis said. “The busy boards are set up in a way that it helps students work on developmental positions such as a tall kneel. Those types of things work on core strength and balance which helps even with eye focus and things like that. We will have whiteboards and chalkboards hung up for students to draw.”
Brian Denny, Director of Florence 1 Programs for Exceptional Children, said that a lot of thought was put into what schools had sensory rooms.
“These specific schools were chosen based on the population of students that are attending at those locations,” Denny said. “At Lester, we have a high population of students with Autism and they need more spaces for sensory input and have high sensory needs. The R.N. Beck Learning Center was chosen based on its preschool population. We know that preschoolers need lots of sensory input and movement, so the sensory room is a perfect fit for the three and four-year-old students just starting their school years.”
Denny said that it was exciting to watch the sensory rooms come to fruition.
“It has been a long haul but we are just glad they are done so students and therapists can use them as they were intended,” Denny said. “We have a group of professionals who are working to finish another room at the Child Development Center at Woods Road and we are looking forward to seeing that room completed as well.”