Five Initial Steps for Planning a Sensory Room

1) What Room?

Free space in schools and facilities is always at a premium. So you may not have a range of options when planning a Sensory Room.

However, the following factors should be considered:

  • Ideally, the room should be solely dedicated to Sensory use
  • It should be in a quieter part of the building away from busy hallways
  • A windowless room or a room with smaller windows would work best

The larger the room, the better. It will allow for interaction by a wide range of users with numerous sensory products

2) Environmental Factors

Once your room is identified, check the air circulation, temperature and lighting. Since Sensory Room equipment may increase the temperature in the room, you want to either have a dedicated thermostat in the room and/or great air circulation via a fan or vents. In addition, the room’s lighting should be low and soothing. Avoid using fluorescent lights which create noise, flickering and harsh lighting.

3) Interior Design

Walls, ceilings and floors all play a key role in setting the tone for your Sensory Room.

  • Floors – Carpeting adds warmth and comfort to a Sensory Room. However, if individuals in wheelchairs will be using the room, you want to make sure that the flooring does not impede the wheelchair from moving about the room. A combination of flooring and carpets would be the ideal choice: carpeting in specific areas or zones and vinyl flooring as a pathway around the room.
  • Walls and ceilings – If you are planning to use projectors that show colorful images on the walls and/or ceilings, then white would be the best color choice. However, if you plan to use ultraviolet lights, then a dark colored wall would better show the fluorescent effects.

4) Electricity

Ensure that you have enough electrical outlets throughout the room.

Ideally, each outlet would have its own on/off wall switch. For ease of use, locate the wall switches together at a convenient, accessible place in the Sensory Room. This gives you complete control over the equipment.

5) Sensory Room Equipment & Design

Now that you have your room selected and basic design completed, it’s time to design the Sensory Room. Enabling Devices offers free Design Services. To begin the process, complete our detailed Sensory Room questionnaire and submit it to Karen Gallichio at kareng@enablingdevices.com or by fax at 914-747-3480.

Air Travel That Makes Sense

Airport Sensory Room

If you’ve read any of Enabling Devices’ travel posts, you know that we’re always on the lookout for great vacation destinations for people with disabilities. But getting to these accessible resorts and tourist sites typically involves air travel which can be stressful for many of us. Big crowds, long lines, security checkpoints, loud announcements, fluorescent lights and the smells of every type of fast food, are just some of the things that make airports especially stressful for people with sensory processing disorders and other disabilities.

Fortunately, a new trend is making air travel more comfortable for people with disabilities and their families. In the last several years, sensory rooms have started to crop up at airports in the United States and abroad.

One of the first airports to create a sensory room was Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which opened its sensory room in 2016. Geared toward travelers on the autism spectrum, sensory rooms can benefit anyone who finds airports overwhelming.

Other airports that are now “on board” with the sensory room trend include: Gatwick Airport in London, Shannon Airport in Ireland, Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama and Miami International Airport. Recently, Pittsburgh International Airport opened one of the most comprehensive sensory rooms so far. According to The Washington Post, the sensory room called “Presley’s Place,” is a “1,500-square-foot space [that] includes a transitional entrance, individual and family rooms, an area for adults and an ‘airplane experience’ complete with a cabin, seats, overhead bins and a jetway.”

The facility was inspired by then 2-year-old Presley Rudge, the son of an airport employee named Jason Rudge. Rudge saw how much his autistic son’s sensory room at preschool helped him to relax and thought the airport could benefit from the addition of one. So, he wrote to the airport’s CEO Christina Cassotis, and suggested the airport create a sensory room.  Cassotis took the request to heart. She asked a team of executives to put together a committee including airport employees, representatives from autism advocacy groups, parents and individuals with ASD to study the idea. As Cassotis told The Post: “We wanted to be industry-leading, we wanted to set a standard, we wanted to show folks what’s possible,” she said. “Based on the size and scope of the space, along with the simulated airplane experience, the airport believes it has achieved that goal, calling Presley’s Place the ‘first of its kind.’

We hope it will not be the last.

Has your family member with autism, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities or sensory processing issues experienced the significant benefits of a sensory room? Enabling Devices provides free consultations to individuals, schools and hospitals interested in creating sensory rooms. For more information, contact Enabling Devices.

 

School-Based Sensory Rooms Increase Students’ Sensory Integration

School-Based Sensory Rooms Increase Students’ Sensory Integration

Updated 3/8/2023

Specially configured areas where children can explore their environments through visual, auditory and tactile experiences, “[sensory spaces] offer highly individualized experiences and serve individuals with a variety of disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy and sensory processing disorders,” says Karen Gallichio, Product Development Specialist at Enabling Devices.

Sensory rooms can also benefit students without disabilities, making them a great investment for the school environment overall. Read on to discover the many benefits of sensory rooms in schools and learn what types of sensory tools will work best in your sensory room.

1. Sensory Skill Development

School sensory rooms can help children enhance their fine and gross motor skills alongside their auditory, visual and tactile processing abilities. These spaces can be especially helpful for children with disabilities that affect their vestibular and proprioceptive systems, which control balance and the body’s ability to sense motion within its parts.

Sensory activities can stimulate nerve growth and build nerve connections in the brain, which help children learn new skills and put them into practice in various environments. Research has suggested that multisensory experiences are best for improving language and social skills and enhancing physical development.

Stress Relief

2. Stress Relief

For many kids with sensory sensitivities, too much stimulation can cause sensory overload. Overload often leads to stress, irritability, fear and discomfort. Sensory rooms in schools help students navigate sensations and emotions with soft lighting, pleasant smells, a quiet atmosphere and self-regulating sensory toys.

Along with the toys you incorporate, the room’s layout should promote stress relief. Furniture that creates spatial boundaries, soft flooring and padded seats and walls all contribute to an environment where children can feel safe, calm and comfortable.

3. Safe Space

Safe and calming sensory experiences can help a child who is sensitive to sensory input and easily overwhelmed develop a positive association between emotions like relaxation or joy and sensory input. A sensory room for schools provides a safe place for kids to decompress from the overstimulation of noisy classrooms full of different sights, sounds and textures.

When students feel safe and calm, they can better focus on their work, regulate their emotions and be less overwhelmed when they return to the classroom.

Inclusion of All Students

4. Inclusion of All Students

Sensory rooms can accommodate students with different abilities and allow them to enjoy a learning environment crafted specifically for their needs. These rooms also help them learn and engage with their peers without feeling excluded.

Edutopia reported on a sensory room that was created for students in the Meriden School District in Meriden, Connecticut.

Before the sensory room was created, students with functional needs in the Meriden district had to be sent outside of their home schools to receive the services they required. Meriden’s Director of Pupil Personnel Patricia Sullivan-Kowalski told Edutopia that this practice “resulted in students feeling less connected to their community. By creating their own sensory room,” said Sullivan-Kowalski, “administrators gained the ability to keep students in their community and provide them with a safe place in a least restrictive environment.”

Additionally, administrators found that the sensory room was helpful to all students, not just students with disabilities. Says Edutopia’s School Selection Coordinator Peter Poutiatine: “We often find that practices designed to meet the needs of the most challenging students in a school are effective for all kids.”

5. Increased Focus and Self-Regulation

Sensory places help students improve their self-regulation by providing a comforting space where they can safely calm down from overstimulation. Kids can develop coping skills by managing their brain and body’s reactions to overstimulation, which subsequently increases their focus. They can also explore sensory experiences that might be uncomfortable for them in other contexts, such as the busy classroom, in a place that allows them to self-regulate more easily.

Self-regulation lets children improve their concentration, self-control and ability to process input so they can retain more information. A child’s belief in their own abilities also influences the development of self-regulation skills, which is why it’s essential to have a safe space where students can practice managing their behaviors and feelings without judgment or stress.

Product Suggestions for Your School's Sensory Room

Product Suggestions for Your School’s Sensory Room

Perhaps you’ve imagined how wonderful it would be to have a sensory space in your classroom or school but assumed it would be prohibitively expensive or would require a great deal of square footage. But that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, you can create a sensory space for as little as a few hundred dollars, and it can be located in a spare closet, an alcove or even a vinyl tent. Why not start small and build out as funding and space become available?

Here are products under $500 you can use to start creating your school’s sensory room or expand on what’s already there:

  • Ball Chairs: Our Ball Chairs can help improve students’ posture and balance and are great seating solutions for learners who have trouble focusing in class or sitting still. The chair’s wheels/casters lock for safety and keep the chair in place, while the high chair back offers comfortable support.
  • Disco Ball: With a Disco Ball, soft lights in colors like red, yellow and blue provide your sensory room with a calming display. This product can help increase visual attention and tracking.
  • Activity Wall Panels: Our wooden wall panels provide colorful activities like matching games and come in eye-catching animal shapes, such as a frog, horse and zebra. Students can work on developing eye-hand coordination and sensory-motor skills with a vibrant abacus, wire maze and set of geometric shapes or gears.
  • Gel Pad Activity Center: Kids can experience auditory, tactile and visual stimulation and learn about cause and effect with this activity center. Pressing the buttons causes a mini fan to blow, lights to flash and glitter to spin inside a capsule, all while providing fun music.
  • Jellyfish Soother: By activating an external switch or simply pressing the jellyfish body, students can enjoy a calming tune and see all the colors of the rainbow. The Jellyfish Soother’s soft texture offers a comforting tactile experience for kids.
  • Pea Pods: Our durable sensory Pea Pods provide a place for students to sit and relax thanks to the seating’s deep yet comfortable pressure. Along with this soothing pressure, the velvet surface offers softness for a positive tactile experience.
  • Textured Marble Fidget Board: Add a mirrored fidget board with smooth-textured marbles to your sensory room to help kids practice emotional self-regulation. This calming activity also helps increase tactile awareness.
  • Somatosensory Tubes: Somatosensory Tubes help students improve their sensory-motor skills and ability to localize sound with calming vibrations and glowing lights.

Build Your School’s Sensory Room With Enabling Devices

Build Your School’s Sensory Room With Enabling Devices

Putting together a sensory room for your school allows you to better serve your students’ needs and give them the tools for skill development and self-regulation, which will help them throughout their lives. Enabling Devices has the products your school is looking for to create a space that benefits both students and teachers with a calming environment.

Browse through more of our offerings to see what fits your vision. If you’re interested in customizing a product to fit a specific goal, we can work with you to design a new solution. Reach out today for more information about our products and how we can help you choose the right tools for your sensory room.

Make the New Year Sense-ational!

Sensory Corner w/Bubble Column and Girl

2016 was a sensational year for the team at Enabling Devices. Why, you might ask? In addition to making great strides with our rebranding project and brand new soon-to-launch website, we also designed 18 sensory rooms for centers that serve people with disabilities. We feel especially proud of this accomplishment because all of our design services were provided to clients entirely free of charge.

For the uninitiated, Sensory rooms are spaces where children and adults can explore their environments through visual, auditory and tactile experiences,” explains Karen O’Brien, Product Development Specialist at Enabling Devices. “They offer highly individualized experiences and serve individuals with a variety of disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, post traumatic stress disorders, cerebral palsy and sensory processing disorders.”

The best sensory rooms are created with the needs of the individuals who will be using them in mind. So when conceptualizing your perfect sensory room, ask yourself the following questions:

· How much space is available? Remember, sensory spaces need not be enormous —even a corner or closet can be converted into a sensory room.

· Who will use the sensory room? Consider ages, physical limitations, wheelchair and other accessibility needs.

· How many people will the room need to accommodate at one time?

· How will the room be used? Will it be a place where people can jump or tumble, a place for relaxation or stimulation, socialization, quiet time or education—all of the above?

· What is your budget? Though sensory rooms can be built for every price range, your budget will determine what equipment and toys you choose to purchase.

Enabling Devices sells a range of sensory products at every price point.

Among our most popular offerings are our Bead Chains (362), and Fiber Optic Sprays (3954), for tactile and visual experiences, Interactive Bubble Tubes (2291) and our new Remote Control Bubble Tubes( 2229) for multi-sensory experiences and relaxation, Ball Pits (3959) and Crash Pads (3139) for active play and weighted products such as our kid-sized vests (3953) to calm and comfort.

And good news! If you get started by March 15, you can build a fantastic sensory room by springtime and receive a 5 percent discount on the products you purchase! Just complete our sensory room questionnaire and one of our design consultants will contact you for your free consultation in 1-2 business days.

 

How to Create a Fabulous Sensory Room for People with Disabilities

Universal sensory space

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.” —-Friedrich Froebel

In 1837, German pedagogue, Friedrich Froebel opened the Play and Activity Institute in Bad Blankenburg, Germany. Three years later, the name of the school was changed to Kindergarten. The rest is history.

Like Froebel, Enabling Devices founder, Steven E. Kanor, Ph.D. believed passionately in the importance of play for all children regardless of physical, emotional or cognitive differences. Now, Steven’s son, Seth, the company’s new CEO, is continuing his father’s noble mission.

Yet, “the simple pleasures and joys that children experience running, playing and enjoying a sunny day are sometimes not available for children with special needs,” notes the Hidden Angel Foundation. “Due to limitations, they don’t experience or are unable to interact with their surroundings, limiting their sensory experience.”

Sensory rooms provide an antidote to this dilemma by creating opportunities for children [as well as adults] of all abilities to experience the joys and pleasures of freedom, safe exploration, learning and play.

 

“Sensory rooms are spaces where children and adults can explore their environments through visual, auditory and tactile experiences,” explains Karen Gallichio, Product Development Specialist at Enabling Devices.

“They offer highly individualized experiences and serve individuals with a variety of disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), cerebral palsy and sensory processing disorders.” In fact, notes Gallichio, sensory rooms are wonderful for anyone who wants to relax, regardless of abilities.

There is great variability in the design of sensory rooms.  Typically, they include any combination of products including swings, LED light illuminatorsbubble tubes, bead chain curtains, musical and tactile toyssensory wall panels and comfortable seating such as beanless bag chairs.

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Gallichio is partial to fiber optic sprays (catalog item #3954), color-changing strands that create a beautiful and mesmerizing effect for a sensory space. “They are both visually stimulating and tactile,” says Gallichio, “Depending on how they are used, fiber optic sprays can be calming, stimulating and interactive.”

Photo of sensory space“Professionals using the rooms and the equipment [in rooms] will tailor them to the specific needs of their clients,” she adds.

The benefits of sensory rooms are many. In addition to developing the senses, they encourage communication and social interactions, relieve stress and anxiety, help children with self-regulation, increase focus and concentration and reduce aggression by creating a feeling of calm and well-being, notes Gallichio.

“Sensory rooms also give the child a sense of control over his or her environment,” she says.

Sound too good to be true? Actually, furnishing, affording and finding space for a sensory room is easier than you may think.

Sensory rooms don’t require a great deal of space. According to Gallichio, an area as small as 4’x4’ is plenty large enough to accommodate a sensory room. Some sensory rooms are set up inside closets and corners; others are created in children’s play tents. The best news? Sensory spaces don’t have to be pricey. Gallichio says it is entirely possible to furnish them for as little as a few hundred dollars.

Get Started with Sensory Room Design from Enabling Devices

Need help getting started? Don’t stress. Enabling Devices offers free sensory design services. Just complete our Sensory Room Design Questionnaire and we’ll contact you within 48 hours with expert advice. Planning a fundraising campaign to finance your sensory room? Check out Enabling Devices’ Fundraising Ideas for a slew of great ideas.

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