Sensory Room Serves Specialized Needs at ILMS

Sensory Room Serves Specialized Needs at ILMS
Posted on 03/11/2022
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This spring, middle school students in need can seek solace in the ILMS Sensory Room. Located in the main ILMS office, the Sensory Room is a small, former office/storage area that is painted a dark charcoal color. Inside are many tools to calm the senses of sight, touch, smell and sound.
ILMS Co-Principal Erin Miller explains, “We are seeing an increase in the number of students who have special education or mental health needs who require a space to self-regulate and have a break from sensory overloads.”
The typical school environment includes a multitude of sensory inputs such as bells, fluorescent lighting, and the continuous movement of peers that can sometimes intensify difficulties students are trying to overcome.
In addition, some students returned from the Covid break and quarantines with increased needs for mental health services. Mrs. Miller and the ILMS Special Education Staff, including School Psychologist, Rebekka Egbert, used federal Covid-relief dollars from the American Rescue Plan, earmarked for special education, to revamp the room offering a variety of soothing activities.
“We are using research-based concepts to promote self-soothing and sensory-seeking coping behaviors with the use of dimmed lighting, calming sounds, weighted lap blankets, visuals of nature, aromatherapy, along with stress-relieving activities such as coloring or block building." Miller continues, "These methods are in place to help students learn coping/adaptive skills when dealing with frustration or feeling that they are overwhelmed."
At this time the Sensory Room includes soft lighting from the “tree” and other soothing visual displays, essential oils for pleasant smells, a sound machine for calming music, crickets or waves, and many tactile tools such as a sand table, squishy balls and water beads.
ILMS 6th grade Gwyn Martin voluntarily visits the Sensory Room for a few minutes nearly every day before school and at lunchtime. Her teachers are using it as a reward to motivate Martin to stay focused in class.
“I love this room a lot. There’s nobody to make noises or frustrate me. It’s a calming feeling.” Gwyn says.
So far, the room is working as a brief escape, allowing students to return to and thrive in a normal classroom. Mrs. Miller says other activities are set aside to bring out later, in order to offer an evolving environment for frequent visitors.
With the success of the Sensory Room at ILMS, the elementary school is planning a similar retreat. Principal Molly Hall says her special education team is in the process of choosing a space and preparing it to be ready for use at ILES next fall.