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Does your school need a dedicated sensory room?

Updated: Jul 5, 2021



Here at Super Calm Sensory Products our aim is to educate parents, carers, teachers and children on neurodiversity and the impact it can have on the person caring for the child with a neurodiverse difference. We aim to increase understanding on what is happening in the body of a neurologically different person resulting in greater empathy in understanding certain behaviours. By developing sensory diets and activities aimed towards their specific sensory needs the child should reach optimum levels of arousal to allow them to be present during school and home life.

Someone who has neurologically diverse differences may react differently to others around sensory stimuli and other environmental factors. The overall goal is to promote understanding and increase empathy resulting in a more harmonious environment for all.



In short the answer is yes, but let us explain the multitude of benefits that sensory rooms provide to an educational environment. 

Although space can be limited in schools and according to studies only 10-15% of students would technically require the use of sensory rooms, we can guarantee 100% of staff and students would gain benefits from having a dedicated sensory room.


Having a sensory room would allow for a holistic mindfulness programme to be deployed by the school. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment by moment awareness of our thoughts. It encourages acceptance and living in the present moment rather than stressing about the past or becoming anxious about the future.

It became popular in American schools thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn and his MBSR programme.

You can find more information about the MBSR programme here:



Although we think we see things as they are in the present moment, this is not the case. Everything we see is affected by our perception. Our perception is limited by our attention span, distractions, bias, emotional reactivity and assumptions. Mindfulness aims to allow one to perceive the world clearly and without these distractions.



 

Early childhood is marked by significant development in self-regulatory skills. For some children this development is delayed or non existent. The use of mindfulness training and sensory rooms supports the development of such skills by targeting top-down processes and lessening bottom-up influences such as anxiety, stress, curiosity. This results in a more focused child who can identify specific problems and tasks and work on them accordingly. Recent studies have proven mindfulness training is associated with a more consistent attention span, enhanced reflective awareness of sensory experience and improved sensory processing. All of which will further enhance a neurologically diverse child's experience in school as well as the experience of those around them.


To find out more about the benefits of mindfulness click below.




Schools in Ireland have been implementing mindfulness programmes for some time now with great success. More information can be found here:




 

Many studies have been carried out relating to mindfulness in the workplace all with similar findings such as significant reduction in emotional exhaustion and more job satisfaction. This alone should reinforce our thoughts, not only is a sensory room important for those children with neurologically diverse needs but for staff and other students alike. Mindfulness programmes are becoming a primary component of schooling, choosing a sensory room will allow the school to have a comprehensive mindfulness programme. Allowing the school to use it whenever they need it rather than implementing a programme which only lasts 3-5 weeks.





Mindfulness has been found to improve everything in the workplace from social relationships, task performance, task commitment and memory. Companies like Google have implemented mindfulness programmes to enhance well-being and overall effectiveness in their offices, which has had great success.

Many people think mindfulness has solely cognitive benefits however it has been found that it can improve physical health. By reducing stress levels sleep can be improved, blood pressure reduction and even breathing rate and heart rhytym as opposed to those who suffer from high blood pressure who do not practise mindfulness.

For employers the benefit we want to stress is that relating to reduced emotional exhaustion and increase in job satisfaction. A recent study has proven that mindfulness has increased focused attention and working memory capacity in a sample of teachers, which can been seen here:




Everyone knows that during school days sometimes the fear of a child having a meltdown can create stress and anxiety for not only the teacher but to other students and sometimes parents have to be called and so on. Having a sensory room is like having a constant plan B, it allows the student who is experiencing distress or discomfort to go and self-soothe and regulate their arousal levels to reach a more calm state. This will reduce stress and anxiety for many in an educational environment.



 

A sensory room is a specially designed room which incorporates a range of stimui to help engage and develop senses. They can have lights, sounds, sensory soft play objects, aromas, and more all in a safe environment for individuals to explore.


The main goal for sensory rooms is to allow neurologically diverse children regulate their emotions and feelings and be prepared for the day ahead. It also acts as an education tool for teachers/parents as they will be able to see what calms the child, what rouses them and what they like/dislike which will help to develop a sensory diet.

The key benefits of sensory rooms can be seen through the following:

  1. Sensory stimulation.

  2. Enhance learning through play

  3. Improve balance, movement and spatial orientation

  4. Tackle behavioural problems.


Sensory rooms don't have to break the bank- once the child has the ability to move, feel pressure and experience quietness the basic needs of sensory rooms have been met.

There is a huge amount of information on creating a sensory room for children available, we have compiled this into a concise list.


Read the blog here:


 

A sensory room has multiple uses as can be seen from the discussion above, not only can it be used for sensory play for neurologically diverse children but as a space for all staff and students to practise mindfulness and relaxation when needed. It can also be used for school counsellors, the comforting safe space will allow children to feel relaxed and talk in a more open manner. For schools a sensory room can also be an added revenue stream. Much like halls or sports fields it can be rented out to external users at a fee. Many OT's would benefit from having access to a full sensory rooms for carrying out their therapy.


 

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