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Sensory Room provides restorative environment for special needs students

By Barry H. Hendrix

The finishing touches are being made this week on a new “Sensory Room” for special needs students at Thomasville Elementary School. It is the last part of a recent renovation to the special education area at the school.
The new room is intended for students with “sensory issues,” said Leslie Carpenter, special education teacher at TES. “This is something our school system took the initiative to do.”
The room can be used to calm a student. Children with autism can have issues with loud noises or specific sounds, she said. 
The room also features furniture that will encourage sensory stimulation for students. A child might need sensory input to their legs and joints through jumping on the trampoline. “It gives them that sense that they are moving and cuts down on their running,” she said. A swing is also included. “It’s very good for vestibular activity,” or dealing with a sense of balance.
A child might need “a wiggle seat or special cushion, which gives an ability to move a little bit. Some kids have the need to move to feel where their bodies are in space.” Students can roll on mats, and weighted, compression vests are available.
There are mats along the walls, and a soft, padded floor.
Furniture and other items have been purchased by the school system, however, parents have also donated or constructed specific items.
A sensory room can be instrumental in helping prepare a special needs student for introduction to the general school population. Teachers can help the child “prepare to take in all the sensory issues,” Carpenter said. Some children have difficulty filtering all the sounds of the classroom. 
The room can also be used as a respite for students who are having particular difficulties in the regular classroom. “The general ed environment can be over-stimulating,” she said, and a child will lose focus on their studies.
In addition, the room can be used for academic instruction outside the classroom.
Approximately 10 special education students will benefit from the new designated area.