Sense-able Schools – The Benefits of Sensory Spaces

Universal sensory space

If you’re a special educator or occupational therapist, you’re probably well aware of the benefits of sensory spaces. 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 disorders, developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy and sensory processing disorders,” according to Karen Gallichio, Product Development Specialist at Enabling Devices.

When sensory spaces are created in schools, they have additional benefits, according to Edutopia, an online education source founded by filmmaker George Lucas. Edutopia recently reported on a sensory room that was created in 2017 for students with special needs in the Meriden School District in Meriden, Conn.

Before the sensory room was created, students with special needs in the Meriden district had to be sent outside of their home schools in order 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.”

Surprisingly, the sensory room in Meriden also saved the school district money. According to Edutopia, “Setting up a sensory room costs less than sending students out for services.”

Additionally, administrators soon 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.”

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. For additional free quotes, design services and fundraising ideas, visit Enabling Devices’ website. In the meantime, here are 12 product suggestions of items under $100 to get you started.

 

  1. Bean Bag Chair #1048W
  2. Scentifier (Aromatherapy Fan) #3210
  3. Sensational Tubes #8089
  4. Rope Lights #9039W
  5. Cosmic Liquid Tiles #3852W
  6. Double Disco Ball #1685
  7. Fiber Optic Sensory Light #3199
  8. Go Anywhere Light Show Go #3331
  9. LED Light Illuminator – Genesis Egg #9224
  10. Tubular Vibrator #1151A
  11. Gel Lap Pad #3142
  12. Vibrating Seal #9300

 

Make the New Year Sense-ational!

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.

 

Start Making Sense: How to Create a Fabulous Sensory Room

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, 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, ball pits, LED light illuminatorsbubble tubes, gel pads, bead chain curtains, weighted vests, musical and tactile toyssensory wall panelsaromatherapy fans and comfortable seating such as beanless bag chairs.

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.

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.