Sensory Rooms

We are creating a sensory room at West Education Center. As we don’t have a traditional Setting IV ASD program we are looking for models for how to best use this space. Our programs at WEC support 14-21 year-olds who have a variety of disabilities, often exhibited as EBD.

Please share thoughts or resources on how you utilize sensory rooms at your various sites. Do students have set times to access them daily? Do students earn time in a sensory room? etc.

Hi Scott,

At NEC we have always had a sensory room in our SUN program. SUN students typically have developmental/cognitive disabilities or ASD on the more severe/profound end of the spectrum. So that’s quite a different population, but SUN students access the sensory room as part of their daily schedule routine, and are scheduled based on need. So it’s not an earned privilege or anything like that. I think if the intent is to meet sensory needs with students, or to have a calm/relaxing space for them, then I don’t think it’s appropriate to make it an earned privilege kind of thing… unless that is what a particular student would choose for their free choice time or something like that. Just my opinion.

We have also had a sensory space in our CIP program in the past. In that program we would typically expect that a student is “at a 1 or a 2” when they enter and would not use that space when they might be escalated or needing some heavy output or a different kind of break. CIP students tended to destroy the sensory room when escalated, and/or they would seek the space out when escalated. This made the space rather difficult to maintain. On that note, a recommendation I have is that if you are creating a sensory room – have a staff person dedicated or assigned to the space as far as clean up, organization, etc. People are terrible at keeping common spaces clean and organized, and a sensory space can quickly turn into a big mess of junk if someone’s not taking care of it.

@BenDrewelow Thank you for your thoughts. I really appreciate them. You bring up good points and your insight is valuable since we are just starting on this. I like the idea of students utilizing the space during scheduled points of their day, dependent on their needs! I will be sharing this with our admin team as we plan!

Side note - We are having some students in our makerspace design things like color changing LED lights to put into the sensory room!

I wonder about using Virtual Reality headsets for this instead of building a room? Jason Violette was doing some experimenting with VR glasses and stress reduction, and the conclusion at the time was that we needed something more durable and inexpensive, but if you’re talking about building a physical environment for one student at time, maybe VR is worth looking at?

Their are number of companies making some relaxation experiences with VR now, and it’s a field that is growing quickly:

At this point the hardware cost might be kind of high, but compared to creating a physical room it might not be so much different?

Just a thought. :slight_smile:

Actually, SECA now has a room with some fidgets, mats, and can’t remember what it’s called (kind of a “pull it together” room. Once a SECA student enters, they give up their phone (seems to be the challenge). When I’m there next week I’ll look at it and see what else they have and find out how many students are using it, and how they presented it to the kids.

Does WEC have an itinerant OT? The OTs would be a great resource for ideas and planning the sensory room.