Let’s talk Sensory Rooms!
I’m thrilled to work in a school with an amazing sensory room! It didn’t happen over night, but slowly, piece by piece we built an awesome sensory room for students to enjoy with the help and direction of our Occupational Therapist. Here are a few of my favorite pieces!
This bubble wall is a hit! It’s filled with distilled water and the lights change colors using a remote. It’s one of the most relaxing features we have! I won’t lie, on stressful days, you’ll find me watching the soothing bubbles after school! It provides great visual input, and auditory, too!
I have 3 different types of swings in my classroom. The platform swing is by far the favorite in my classroom. This type of swing bolts into the metal joist in the ceiling for security. When looking into installing a swing, make sure you have the recommended space around the swing and the proper floor under to prevent any injuries.
I’m a huge fan of using a trampoline with a safety handle. Not only does this give students a safe way to bounce and get some wiggles out, but it maintains safety. I also love that it’s small enough I can move it around wherever we need it!
Inflatable Pea Pod
I love items I can move around so students can use them outside of the sensory room. This inflatable Pea Pod does just that. You can adjust the pressure it provides with the amount of air you add to the pea pod. It has handles on it for easy moving. For students who love to be in tight spaces, this is a great choice! Many of my students do ABA while in the Pea Pod!
Harsh, florescent lighting isn’t the best when creating a cozy space for regulation. These blue light covers magnet to your light fixture and turn harsh light into a soft, blue glow. They are easily removable and can be used on a variety of light fixtures including flush-mount florescent lights.
Steamroller Squeeze Machine
Another great item for students who love deep pressure! This item has rubber ties to adjust pressure. Students go through the roller (teachers and assistants can too!) and the rollers move as they roll through. Once they learn how to use it, this becomes a favorite!
Students love falling into this mat or even jumping into it! Filled with foam, it provides sensory feedback. Splurge for a washable, waterproof cover and go for the largest mat you can find!
These liquid filled tiles can be mounted on the wall or the floor. Push on them with your hands or your feet and make the gel move around. These tiles are incredibly durable and hold up well to being stomped on.
Before building a sensory room, reach out to your principal and/or superintendent, and have them contact the school’s insurance company. Many have requirements on things like trampolines and swings. Our district was required to put EPS rated foam under the equipment our students were using to prevent any accidental injuries. Whatever equipment you bring in, you are going to want to make sure safety is well thought out.
Get Your OT Involved
Occupational Therapists are just filled with amazing knowledge. Tap into that wealth of knowledge and have them help you brainstorm ideas while you are in the planning phases. They can help you come up with a plan that will suit the needs of the students you serve as well as make sure all sensory needs are met (sometimes we forget about things like auditory and visual needs!).
It’s Okay to Start Small
Our sensory room has some amazing pieces in it, but they didn’t all come at once. We started small with a swing, then added a trampoline and some yoga balls and a balance beam. Slowly, with the help of parents, local pediatricians and dentists, our PTO, local grants, and donor’s choose we built the room to what it is now. Having a huge budge for a sensory room would be great, but it isn’t necessary to get started. Outside of the floor and the swings and mount, most items were under $300. Take baby steps if you need
Even if you already have a sensory room space or a sensory path, keep working on updating and maintaining the equipment you have. Always have a list going of features you want to add or equipment on your wish list. You never know when a grant comes around!
Sensory Regulation Matters
Helping student use the sensory room before or during learning can be a game changer. Don’t be afraid to use the sensory equipment while teaching. I have a student who does math facts while on the trampoline and that’s just fine with me! Our student’s sensory needs must be met if we want them to do their best. Even starting small with a piece or two of equipment will go a long way towards helping your students!