Sensory Rooms in Schools

What is a sensory room?

A sensory room is a room which incorporates multiple pieces of equipment to provide sensory input for individuals to calm and organise themselves. We as occupational therapists call the process of calming and organising our sensory system “sensory integration” (Ayers, 1972). Typically, a sensory room would provide input from all of our sensory systems: vision, hearing, touch, movement, deep calming pressure and at times oral input (chewy or breathing tools). For example, a room could have some calming music, different lights, jumping and crashing, pulling and swinging activities and equipment to touch and play with. This room can then provide the sensory input that children are seeking or needing to be able to regulate their sensory system and concentrate.

What are the benefits of utilising a sensory room within a school?

  • Calming and organising: A sensory room can assist students to organise the sensations from their body and the environment and provide a calming and organising effect which can make it easier for the child to concentrate and learn within school (Ayers, 1972).
  • Concentration and Attention: Schools which have implemented sensory rooms within their schools have reported increased concentration and decreased undesirable behaviors (Mills & Chapparo 2017).
  • Emotional regulation: Sensory rooms can be a safe space for children to regulate, calm their emotions and prevent sensory/emotional meltdowns. Using the sensory space can assist in preventing the child from increasing to a heightened emotional state.
  • Improve body’s feedback: Deep pressure feedback provided within obstacles in the sensory room can improve body awareness which can lead to improvements in gross and fine motor tasks.
  • Improve learning: With increased concentration and being in the ‘just right’ state, learning opportunities increase as does retention of information.
  • Improve social engagements with peers: when a child is in a “just right state” they are able to engage and better regulate their emotional when interacting with peers.

If you are interested in working with an occupational therapist to set up a sensory space in your school, please contact Talking Matters on 8255 7137.

References:

Ayres, A. J. (1972). ‘Sensory integration and the child’. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services

Mills, C. and Chapparo, C. (2017). Listening to teachers: Views on delivery of a classroom based sensory intervention for students with autism. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 65(1), pp.15-24.

A Sensory Life!. (2019). Sensory Retreats. [online] Available at: http://asensorylife.com/sensory-retreats.html [Accessed 28 Feb. 2019].

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