Cheryl: Research shows that if the student's in the right mindset and they get their sensory needs met, they're going to be much better learners. So after the sensory room, they're able to focus more, they're able to learn easier, and they retain more information, I find.
Heather: Hands to your heart space. Take a deep breath in.
Patricia: The children should be and deserve to be educated within their district and within their school community. In Meriden, we have approximately twelve hundred students who have individualized educational plans. Students with vision difficulties, language difficulties, autism.
Jennifer: So here at Hanover School, we have our STARS autism program, and STARS stands for Students and Teachers Achieving Remarkable Success.
Cheryl: So River, what did we do yesterday, what book did we read?
Heather: So autism presents throughout a very broad spectrum. A lot of times, it's a social issue. Some of them demonstrate behaviors because they are not able to communicate their needs. They may have difficulty sitting still for a long period of time.
Cheryl: They need different sensory breaks throughout the day so they can self regulate their feelings and emotions.
Heather: Take some deep breaths here.
Cheryl: The sensory room is probably my most important piece of the day. Students go to the sensory room in order to calm their bodies and get all the emotions out and stabilize themselves, so they're ready to learn and they're happy.
Heather: When we designed the sensory room, we actually took the entire room apart. We carpeted the floor so that we could absorb some of the sound. We put the shades on the ceiling to change the light, so when they walk in that room, they feel the change. All the students in this school go by that room and want to go in there.
Cheryl: It's actually not just for the STARS program. It's for any student in the whole school that might be having a tough day. My class specifically, we utilize the room once a day for a thirty minute break and then once a week, we have physical therapists that work with our students.
Heather: First thing that they do is go on the ball and they bounce to a metronome.
We work with the breathing to calm them.
And then we move into some yoga.
Heather: It's really a way to ground them into the space before we have them go out into the room.
Cheryl: All right, my friends. We're going to do our rotation now, okay?
So there's different stations in the sensory room, and some of my students love specific stations. One in particular loves the punching bags and the ropes. He's able to get all that anger and frustration out, so that calms him down. Whereas another student, I know he needs calming movements, so he's on the swing going back and forth.
Heather: Another area in the room is the crash pad. You will see students that have sensory issues bump into walls, bang their head. So what we've created is a safe space to crash into. And then there's the light wall. You could use your hands, you could use your feet. There's different games that are programmed on there, and really what you're doing is hitting something, and getting all that input back into your joints.
Teacher: Yes, good girl.
Heather: We also work on balance and coordination. The walking path works on all of those, and that affects your vestibular system, which is your inner ear. And they have to right themselves, correct their body in space. We have ten pound slam balls. Some students just need to come in, pick something heavy up and throw it. That's the essence of a sensory room. You're putting materials in there that are appropriate, so a student's not throwing a chair. And at the end when they finish with their stations, they lay on the floor and they're squished, to give them more input, so that they're prepared to leave the room. So everything that we do in there is predictable, there's a set sequence.
Cheryl: We're all done with sensory room. We're going to walk back to our class.
Patricia: So we have found that the impact of the sensory room has increased time on task, and it has decreased negative behaviors. So the kids are able to sit in their seat and stay focused for longer periods of time.
Teacher: What do you put at the end of your sentence?
Teacher: Good job, high five.
Cheryl: They're quieter and their hands are to themselves, and they're able to listen to my directions. We're here, we came from the sensory room, we're ready to learn.
How does the sensory room make you feel?
Cheryl: Nice job, Alan.