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E Windsor, CT: Children's center adds "sensory immersion room" for students 'to chill out'

June 25, 2021, Worcester (MA) Telegram: Clark institute's Sensory Immersion Room offers advanced approach to calming youth

The director of a Clark University program that has helped develop a new virtual reality-incorporating calm-down room for a treatment facility in Connecticut hopes the new approach to addressing young adults’ mental health needs will be adopted closer to home as well. Nadia Ward, executive director of the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise at Clark, said the new Sensory Immersion Room unveiled this week at the Solnit Children’s Center North Campus in East Windsor is a major step forward in responding to behavioral episodes in schools and other youth-serving facilities. In addition to using technology, specifically Oculus Quest headsets, to produce more personalized and detailed interventions for students, the Sensory Immersion Room that the Mosakowski Institute has helped develop also is based on extensive scientific and clinical data and expertise that elevates it above being a “room with comfortable seating in it that’s just a place for a student to chill out,” she said. More basic “cool-down” rooms are already employed at many schools in the region, including Worcester, as a way to isolate and help students following a behavioral incident in school. "They're only used as a last resort," Superintendent Maureen Binienda said, adding the state also has strict rules governing the circumstances under which students can be kept in them. … But Ward is hopeful school districts, as well as other organizations serving young adults in the region, will latch onto her institute’s new model, particularly as pandemic-related federal funding pours into school systems in the coming years…. Early returns on the Solnit Center Sensory Immersion Room are promising, according to Ward; so far there have been 52 “encounters” logged at the facility, and on a 1 to 10 scale, youth who used the room rated it an average of 9.6 in terms of helpfulness…. Guided meditation sessions and other approaches The Sensory Immersion Room can also be used for guided meditation sessions, mindfulness exercises and other approaches to getting a student to calm down. For young men in particular, it can provide an alternative to speech when it comes to expressing their emotions…. “(It’s) a tremendous new arrow in our treatment quiver,” said Brett Rayford, superintendent of the Solnit Center North Campus. “The SIR room is the latest intervention to help young men understand their emotions, how to better regulate them and ultimately how to function far better in families and communities and school.”…


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