By: Paula Walter
It’s been estimated that one in every 68 children in the United States has autism or falls into the autism spectrum. It has been reported that boys are more likely than girls to be autistic, and it often occurs with other disorders. Children do not have to fall into this spectrum to experience speech, developmental and other delays. Additionally, there are those who may have a hard time understanding verbal directions, those who find they can’t understand as well in noisy environments, and those who are hypersensitive to touch, or lights, noise and even smells. For children who struggle with their environments, it can sometimes be overwhelming. Roan Creek Elementary has taken positive steps into providing a safe haven for their students who could benefit from taking a few minutes to compose themselves and regroup before heading back into their learning environment.
According to Roan Creek Elementary School principal, Cheri Long, the school is in the process of completing a sensory room. “A sensory room/calming room offers therapeutic benefits to individuals of all ages,” Long said. “The room is designed to stimulate an individual’s senses through the use of various colors, textures and sounds.” According to Long, several of the students will utilize the room in their daily schedules and on an as needed basis during the day.
Realizing the need for their students in the school, a sensory room committee, comprised of parents, school staff, occupational and physical therapist, Frontier Health, central office supervisor, Paula Norton, and community members, worked together and bounced ideas off one another to provide an environment where students could safely interact. “This sensory room has lights, a water panel, sounds, a textured wall, crash mat, hammock and a ball pit,” Long said. There is even a hammock adapted for youth hung in the corner where students can relax. “Sarah Davis, a Roan Creek parent, has spent countless hours painting the room with calming colors and animals,” Long added.
Students of Tim Roberts at Johnson County made a large wooden ball pit the students can enjoy. There were containers of rice, sand and theraputty that offer an array of textures for the students to explore, along with toys that offer different tactile experiences. The floor is covered in interlocking pieces to provide a more comfortable environment.
“We are excited that we can provide our students with a safe, calming and sensory-enriched environment,” said Long. The plan is the sensory room will be ready for use as soon as the front doors open on the first day of school.