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GA: Bibb County to have "sensory room" in every school; cost: $1.1M

…Central High School is one of 11 Bibb Schools where sensory rooms were used this school year after the Bibb County Board of Education voted to approve them in May. At its monthly meeting in October, the board voted to expand sensory rooms to each of the district’s 34 schools to allow for a safe space where students may recalibrate, recollect and self-regulate.

The sensory rooms are particularly helpful to students like Deegan who is among about 2,300 students in the district’s Program for Exceptional Children….

In addition to the room’s mesmerizing visuals, the room includes wall panels featuring an array of materials and textures to touch, grab or twist. The lighting is dim and the sounds of students shuffling to class are muffled.

Washington said the sensory room also has been helpful to students in the general education program and some with emotional needs.

“It acts as a form of seclusion when we’re able to isolate or remove certain distractions away in order for the student to regain focus and to have a sense of calmness,” Washington said. Students “may have a lot of things on their mind to where they don’t have an outlet until they get here. And so thankfully we have an outlet for all students to utilize.”

Jennifer Donnelly, executive director of the district’s Program for Exceptional Children, said the schools are already seeing results as students are beginning to self regulate.

Bibb Schools is likely the only district of its size in Georgia to have sensory rooms in every school, she said.

The sensory rooms are slated to be completed at all schools by February….

The sensory rooms also have proven helpful to principals in addressing student behavior, she said….

A majority of students in the district’s Program for Exceptional Children have “invisible disabilities,” Donnelly said. “They have average intelligence but have a single deficit area.”…

About 30-40% of kids with autism also experience intellectual impairment, Rotschafer said, and “while those two things overlap a little bit, it’s possible that, you know, it’s a better treatment for one than the other.”

Even so, the trend of sensory rooms in schools appears to be growing, she said….

The sensory rooms cost Bibb Schools roughly $30k each and the total estimate for 34 is about $1.1 million. The district will use a one-time federal funding opportunity from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act/American Rescue Plan to cover the cost….

Central High School senior Gabe Deegan watches assistant teacher and parapro Madelynn Washington hold a stream of optical fiber lights in the school’s new sensory room on Oct. 25, 2022. (Photo Credit Grant Blankenship | Georgia Public Broadcasting)


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