After recess, fifth-grade student Wesley Orvis steps out of a busy hallway at Burnett Creek Elementary School and into a special room. Inside, he is surrounded by soothing colors, dimmed lights and his choice of Legos, balls and other learning activities.
"I really like it in here. It helps me calm down," says Wesley.
The former teacher workroom was converted two years ago into a sensory room to benefit students with sensory issues, such as Autism, emotional disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Down Syndrome. The room, which is one of several initiatives designed to help address special sensory needs, also helps other students who can use it when they want a calm environment.
"If Wesley isn't able to reduce his sensory load throughout the day, he isn't able to function well and it impedes his learning," says Wesley's mother, Kathryn Orvis.
Occupational Therapist Nurit Harash-Kantor says having a sensory room for children to take a break and refocus attention is vital for their success in school. "With the increased demands in the academic environment, the students seem to need a lot more movement and relaxation breaks, and this room has equipment that can provide strategies for all those needs."
As Katie Luebcke teaches her third-graders, the students use air cushions, wobble chairs and standing desks. "I have a lot of students who like to fidget or move while they work, and regular chairs don't allow them to do that," says Luebcke. "I think the new furniture benefits all students; I think it has improved their focus and productivity."