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Branson, MO: District preschool gets sensory room; teachers see 'emotional needs'

Oct 26, 2021, Branson (MO) News: Hollister Early Childhood Center gets sensory room https://www.bransontrilakesnews.com/news/local/article_46319752-3684-11ec-b029-0ff0e19b7814.html

The Hollister Early Childhood Center is getting a sensory room for students, thanks to a special education teacher. Sarah Combs, a special education teacher at the Hollister Early Childhood Center, applied for and received a $500 grant from the Missouri Retired Teachers Association to create a sensory room for students with sensory needs, according to a press release from Hollister School District. … “I got a grant from the Missouri Retired Teachers Association. Our superintendent sent it out saying that it was available and so I applied,” Combs said. “Five hundred Missouri teachers were able to get a $500 grant, and so I wrote it for sensory items to use in our sensory classroom. I also had friends and family donate money for the noodle forest. Lots of people have volunteered and donated to this project.”… Combs said the sensory room, which was initially started with special needs kids in mind, is now utilized by any students in the school who may need to refocus and redirect their attention toward learning. “On any particular day, there could be 50 kids who come through the room. In a week it could be over 300 kids, you know, it depends on when the teachers want to bring them and how often their students need refocus time,” Combs said. “This started more for the mindset of the special education kids, but then like once we started doing it we realized all kids could benefit from this kind of room. Both, to be honest because, obviously, some special education students need lots of sensory items to help them cope and to help them through their day, but you know, some of our other students have so much energy and need redirection for that energy.” Kristina Smith, Special Services Coordinator for Hollister School District, explained the sensory room also makes it easier for children who may have unidentified learning issues. “At our early childhood special education program we have preschool aged children 3 and up. We try as hard as we can through community partnerships to identify those students with special needs early, because the earlier the intervention, the quicker we can take care of an issue, and get them caught up. However, there are some students that show up on our doorstep in kindergarten and they’ve never been in a daycare or a school setting. They’ve only been at home and they don’t know how to regulate their emotions, yet they don’t know how to regulate their bodies through an entire school day,” Smith said. “This room is a benefit so maybe we can identify a need that they didn’t know existed.”… “It’s great to have. Some students who maybe need a break, like a teacher will call and say, this student is just having a hard time. They need a break from this moment,” Combs said. “Maybe they’re frustrated or they’re angry. Maybe they don’t want to keep going. So we bring them through the path and it just refocuses their mind, not on the situation they had but what they’re doing at the moment. Then they’re ready to go back to class and focus.” “We’re seeing a lot of social and emotional needs, especially through the COVID crisis,” Smith said. “We know it’s in the headlines every day. It is affecting the mental health of adults, but also for our kids. Our kids’ brains are not fully developed yet. We have preschool, kindergarten and first grade in this building, and they cannot process what is going on. All they know is ‘I’m frustrated. I’m angry. I’m sad.’ And that’s exactly what Miss Combs and this room help with. Maybe there is something going on at home they can not express. The sensory room helps them even though they may not know the issues and why they are getting overwhelmed or why they are frustrated. They don’t necessarily have the language or the ability yet to communicate why they are doing what they are doing.” Smith said taking a child who is having a difficult time learning or acting up in class out of the situation can help them. …