Sensory Room Setup: The Environment

Categories: OT Perspective | Sensory
You do not need a designated sensory room to meet many student needs, but if you have access to a space it can be incredibly helpful.  In part one of this multiple part blog series, let’s explore the environmental setup of a sensory room.  In subsequent posts, we will take a look at policies and procedures when using a sensory room as well as specific tools you may want to include in your space.  When I was tasked with setting up a sensory room this year, it was a bit daunting to start.  We had a big, empty room and a lot of equipment in boxes.  My coworkers and I worked hard to think about the best way to set up the space.  Here are three big takeaways from our experience.

Create dedicated activity zones

Every student who enters the sensory room may be at a different energy level and may require different tools to regulate.  We knew it would be important to have organized options to meet a wide variety of sensory profiles.   Based on our student population, we created three designated activity zones: a calming section, a gross motor movement section, and a tabletop activity section. We used equipment and furniture to creatively divide up the space as best we could.  

Investigate storage options

A sensory room is meant to support regulation, but often having too many items or choices can be more overwhelming.  We do not have a lot of storage in our space, so we had to be creative.  We did not want students to have access to every single piece of equipment we own.  We decided to utilize a small closet, some lockers in the hallway as well as some bins to stash away the extra items until we need them in the future or want to switch items out.  

Think about the adults too

When setting up the space, we thought about how the adults supporting the students would experience it as well.  OTs are not available to staff the space 100% of the time and facilitate sensory breaks, so we want it to be as clear and easy to use as possible in our absence.  We placed important items like visuals, procedures and schedules in an easy to see/access place.  Data sheets are easily accessible as well, equipped with a pen.  It is easy to supervise a student in any area of the room.  Setting the adults up for success also helps support student success.  

Setting up a sensory room can seem overwhelming, but with some teamwork and creativity you can create a space that meets the needs of your students.  Stay tuned for part two and three of this series!


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