September 2019
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New Sensory Therapy Room at Bon Air Provides Unique Therapeutic and Learning Opportunities

Most parents are probably now familiar with fidget spinners, the popular toy that was first designed to help kids and adults alike who struggle with autism spectrum disorder. The new sensory therapy room at Bon Air Elementary can provide similar sensory relief to students, but on a much larger scale.

The idea and science behind sensory therapy is that students on the autism spectrum inherently have a difficult time processing incoming stimuli, especially when dealing with multiple different sensory stimuli at once. In very severe cases, even sitting in a quiet environment can still be overwhelming.

The sensory therapy room provides a break for students to partake in sensory therapies that focus on movement, touch, sound, and light. A swing, for example, allows the student to focus on only one stimulus–the motion of the swing–while calming down the other senses. This is also why fidget spinners can have a calming and relieving effect. By focusing on the motion of the spinner, the student is able to relieve overstimulation of other incoming senses. This is known as “stimming” and is what the sensory therapy room can offer in a productive, comfortable environment.

“The sensory therapy room offers a therapeutic setting that can provide students with sensory issues with some therapy so that they can have a more positive day and maximize their learning and social opportunities,” says Dr. Greg Egnor, Director of Student Services.

The room, which was designed by Pamela Sawhook and Rebecca Moyes, adjoins the special education classroom so that students can be scheduled to spend time in sensory therapy as needed.

“I have been using the room since the beginning of the school year,” says Ms. Sawhook, “and I have already seen a positive response.”

Ms. Sawhook has noted that the Sensory Therapy room has been able to help students to learn strategies to support self-regulation and executive functioning, such as focusing, planning, and completing tasks. Students have also been able to benefit from motor movement activities to help improve balance, focus, and concentration.

“The room can also simply provide a safe, calm environment to prevent and reduce occurrences, regroup, and support de-escalation,” says Ms. Sawhook, “in addition to redirecting energy with activities like jumping, crawling, and rowing, and providing social interaction.”

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