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Gadsden, AL: Elem school gets sensory room; 'a large population of students [with] sensory issues'

Jan 20, 2019, Gadsden (AL) Times: John Jones opens sensory room for special needs students John Jones Elementary School now has a room full of textured toys, blankets, lights and sounds. There are floor tiles filled with colored liquid that moves around when stepped on, and a bubble tube lamp with toy fish swimming around inside. A couple swings are hung from the ceiling, and a bean bag chair has taken up one corner. The room is designed to be fun, but it actually serves a more important function. These rooms — called sensory rooms — provide a therapeutic environment for children with autism or other special needs. The blankets are weighted to provide pressure known to calm the body by releasing serotonin. The swing allows children to develop their vestibular system, which uses fluid in the inner ear to provide a sense of balance and spatial orientation. Toys made of different materials with a range of textures allow the students to further develop their senses. Dimmed lights and calming music can help calm them down, too. Having a designated space for those with special needs to interact in a safe environment is beneficial to their success in school. “We have a large population of students who have sensory issues, and this is just a great place for them to go and explore their environment and engage with it,” said Tanya Clark, the school’s principal. The school’s special education teachers, Diane Hicks, Mallory McGinnis and Amber Works, said they are excited about the new room. They have never been able to use some aspects of the room in their teaching, but they are looking forward to it. … McGinnis said the room will be used both as a scheduled part of their curriculum and as a resource when teachers can tell a student is getting overwhelmed. Works said some students in the general education classes may be also able to use the space to calm down. … Clark said she is excited to have the new sensory room, and she and the teachers said they are grateful to APSO for creating the space…. Once school reopens next week, the teachers are looking forward to letting the rest of their students see the space. “This could be the beginning of something that we look at doing at multiple schools,” Cosby said.

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