Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sensory Rooms in Schools

This is such a debated topic among Pediatric OTs. There is a lot of concern about removing kids from the classroom to engage in activities in another setting and the liability. There has been a lot of debate on what the rooms should be called and who is responsible.  The list goes on and on.  I had a mother tell me in an IEP meeting that he son needs to jump for hours when he gets home after being at school all day.  My response was that maybe he needed more input throughout his school day. 

Do I provide clinical SI treatment in the schools? NO!   However, I have become an advocate for the proper use of our movement break/sensory room. 

When I started at my current school, the room already existed. I had mixed feelings about it. I had never worked at a school that had one before and it clearly wasn't always being used appropriately.  I honestly didn't even know where to begin at first with turning things around.  After working on this
 for 3 years, it has finally happened and I am excited about it.  It has truly been a community effort though.

I started with doing an in-service with all of the staff that would potentially use the room. I explained the rationale behind the reasons why we use various input. I taught them about sensory diets and why they are important.  We talked about not using sensory breaks as a reward and recognizing our students sensory needs.  Also, we talked about the proper use of the equipment. Staff were truly appreciative.  One Teacher Assistant truly didn't know all of these things and was truly in awe and thankful for the knowledge.  I have been co-teaching the Zones of Regulation program with my resource teachers for 2 years now.  Therefore, the bulletin board and sign in sheets use the terms and language from the program. 

With the help of my awesome speech therapist,  we replaced a swing with a donor's choose grant.  My school psychologist was able to donate another swing.  With PTA grant money, we were able to buy a new crash pillow and pea pod.  The principal has generously offered to give me more money for other equipment to add. 

It was also important to me that we build in structure. The room can be easily very overstimulating for some children.  I decided to start providing students with schedules so it was clear as to what they are to do while in the room.  I am planning to make specific schedules for some children and for others, teachers can make the schedule with the students based on their current need. I am planning to add real pictures of some of the equipment for the schedules. We are also having children check-in and collect data as to how the children are responding to the stimulation.  Another OT that I work with shared a contract that she uses with students and I decided to implement that as well with my regular education students. 

We are all sensory beings.  Some children with special needs have difficulty dealing with various sensory inputs within the school setting (regular education and separate education settings).  The need for vestibular and proprioceptive input throughout the day can impact learning and behavior. It is my desire to help my students and teachers meet their needs so that optimal success can be achieved in the educational setting. 


  1. This room looks amazing, I would enjoy spending time here!

    1. Lol It's funny you say that. I have been approached by some staff members who would love if I advocated for a staff lounge that was sensory friendly.

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  2. Wow, that looks amazing! The school I work in does not have a room (yet), just a stage where aides bring the students...but next year we might have one. It's great hearing the success you are having with it!

  3. I love the sensory room now. The kids love it too! It's really nice to see how the concept is being implemented! Thanks, Tamika! You are awesome!