Benefits Of Sensory Rooms In Schools

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Multisensory learning offers numerous advantages to students with special educational requirements. We have discussed important resources for enabling multisensory learning in our recent post. If we observe closely, the main role of multisensory resources is to stimulate senses, cognition, and sustained ingraining of concepts. What if the process of multisensory learning is objectified in the form of a space that delivers all the benefits of this type of learning? The idea seemed fanciful some time back but now has become a reality with the introduction of sensory rooms.

About sensory rooms

A sensory room works in multidimensional ways on children’s learning, understanding, and coping capacities. This room or space can or space is filled with stimulators of visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile nature to give a tangible experience of real-life settings to children with certain disabilities[1].

On one hand, the sensory rooms build an environment that promotes learning, and on the other, these rooms go a little further and familiarize kids with virtues of coping or adjusting with or tolerating a variety of stimulators present in a real-life scenario.

Since sensory rooms give an introduction of stimulators of various kinds beforehand, kids develop a sense of security, self-control, and balance of mind-action by spending some time there. Sensory rooms prove to be a great training tool for kids who suffer from issues like cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, and other disabilities in which neuromotor capabilities and balance of body, mind, and impending actions are disturbed. Such children can prepare better for the life ahead by fulfilling their learning and coping needs through sensory rooms.

Why do we need a sensory room?

The professionals are likely to use these sensory rooms on patients with autism spectrum because of its benefits. It was observed in an experiment by Beth A and the group that the autistic manners reduced after the use of sensory rooms. The basic reasons to use sensory rooms can be summarized as:

  • Developing body control and thought-action balance: Children with lack of neuromotor and other behavioral skills lag in social skills and find difficulty in communicating through both verbal and non-verbal cues. Thus, they improve balance, physical movements’ control, and interpersonal communication by taking advantage of benefits the sensory rooms offer.
  • Preparing for real-life communications: Students suffering from disorder like autism spectrum or similar ones have difficulty adjusting in situations otherwise considered normal. In the world that we see around, there are stimulators as well as irritants like bright noise, loud noises, very spicy food, extremely cold or hot temperatures, etc. It is the intelligence of ignoring the unnecessary and imbibing the needful that differentiates fluidity in nature from stubbornness or sensitivity from oversensitivity. Sensory rooms help develop the art of practicing immunity towards sources of irritation and bring in required calmness and self-control in demeanor.

Thus, the overall impact of sensory rooms lies in reducing the instances of meltdowns, tantrums, and other socially objectionable behavior that children with special needs display and earn undue, negative attention. These rooms and staying time there can be individualized according to the extent of the problem the child faces.

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Benefits of sensory rooms in schools and homes

The counseling is not available anywhere, all the time. Also, the cost involved demoralizes the parents or institutions to have counselor access. Instead, they find a feasible solution in sensory rooms. Since these spaces can be built easily within premises and in a limited area, they solve the issues of accessibility and feasibility. Thus, every student with special needs may be accommodated as the school is well-prepared to tackle their coping skills’ extra needs.

Sensory rooms offer a bit informal way of giving behavioral or occupational therapy to children. Since these rooms are just like any other area, children can be their natural self, communicate and coordinate more freely, quickly, and safely, and need not face struggles of appointments, waiting times, and enrolments with correctional programs. Thus, empowering vulnerable kids with basic behavioral, self-control, and communication skills becomes easier and faster with sensory rooms.

Common positive impacts of the sensory rooms on kids show on the following parameters:

  • Growth

Students can have access to sensory stimulations to learn how they could respond to a certain situation. This helps them attain a normal growth curve while finding solutions to their disabilities simultaneously.

  • Learning ability

Sensory rooms’ effects are similar to that of occupational therapy recommended for students with special needs. Thus, these rooms offer pretexts for engaging the student’s brains in different activities. This improves overall information retention ability among children and makes them capable of learning newer skills.

  • Regulation

The children can calm down in these sensory rooms and learn how to regulate their behaviors. This improves their ability to cope with different kinds of surroundings.

Relevance of sensory rooms in inclusive model of education

IDEA Act required schools and other educational institutes to be equipped with solutions that can address the learning requirements of students with different kinds of LDs and behavioral issues. The sensory rooms are in exact accordance with this Act and create an environment conducive for normal teaching/guiding of disabled children.

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The schools now take the help of professional psychologists and other trained specialists to develop these sensory rooms. Such a coordinated way of working has made these rooms quite effective in delivering the intended purpose. Further, regular evaluation and brainstorming of ways to improve add to the relevance of these sensory rooms.

Different sizes and designs of sensory rooms are conceived to ensure meaningful accommodation of the special needs of students. Thus, these rooms become definite enablers of healing, calming, and managing emotions and sensitivity levels of students facing a lack of balance, acceptance of surroundings, and self-control.

Impact of sensory room on special children’s personality

Sensory rooms help children with disabilities in sustained and profound ways. These rooms help build the sociable personality of children while enhancing their intellectual and behavioral skills. Virtues of remaining calm, patient, and management of feelings of anger, irritation lead to the following positive impacts:

  • Improves focus

It is observed that children dealing with ADHD or autism spectrum find it difficult to focus on one thing at a time. They are found distracted even when they are sitting alone. A sensory room helps improve regulating attention and display appropriate awareness of surroundings.

  • Mental Resilience

Even though the sensory rooms don’t help you restructure your brain functions, they can help the students with learning how to handle extreme situations. A sensory room helps to improve resilience in students with autism spectrum. It aids them in exploring the outside world without making them afraid of other people or objects. The development of the students becomes easier that helps them mingle in the outside world.

  • Increased cognition

Some students may need to develop their awareness of their surroundings. The children who are prone to get stressed because of extreme situations or stimulations need well-designed toys and items to help them explore their surroundings and improve their cognition. These useful items inside the sensory rooms help the students adjust to stimulating situations and be in appropriate control.

  • Development of senses

Most of the children cannot control or even become aware of their senses because of the poor response abilities. However, in a safe and stress-free environment of sensory rooms, the students might develop their senses and reaction to two different things through complex mechanisms.

  • Sociability
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Many children with disabilities such as autism can hardly socialize with others. Not only are they uncomfortable, but also are they afraid of stimulations. This is where a well-equipped sensory room or space helps the students interact with others without any hesitation. They also create opportunities for the students to face such situations easily where they are stimulated by events demanding sociability. Recently, researchers tried to come up with a hormone to induce sociability; it miserably failed. Thus, the sensory room offers a practical solution rather than running for shortcuts!

Components of the sensory room

Disabled students require unique therapy approaches. The right kind of equipment and a room setup, according to the requirement of the student can help them in handling situations.

It creates a safe architectural intervention for the student to be habitual of the stimulants. The environment can be made more accommodating of self-care activities with adequate equipment use and guidance of experts.

Some of these items that are included in the sensory rooms or spaces include:

  • Suspended equipment
  • Platform swings
  • Scooter boards
  • Bouncing balls
  • Body socks
  • Image projectors
  • Bubble tubes
  • Fibre optic lighting
  • Bins
  • Battle ropes
  • Canopies
  • And many others

However, not all the sensory rooms contain everything mentioned above; components may differ according to the objectives and varying requirements of the student. The design objective is to ensure that each component contributes to learning and does not hinder it.

Future scope

The sensory rooms are expected to rise between the years 2021 to 2026. The professionals and therapists strongly advocate the use of interactive sensory rooms to accommodate the needs of disabled kids. These rooms are found to serve disabled students with an opportunity to come out of their shells, and concentrate on things that actually matter and are important till late in their life.

References:

[1]A Review of Sensory Design Physical Learning Environment for Autism Centre in Malaysia, (Ghazali, et al, Environment-Behaviour Proceedings Journal, 2018)

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