Yacolt Primary School is the first in the Battle Ground Public Schools district to implement a sensory room, which provides relief for children with developmental disabilities when they’re in distress.
The idea emanated from Nadia Noid, an occupational therapist for the district who transformed a storage room into a sensory room that includes a tent, a swing and bubble lamps.
“As an occupational therapist, I was already familiar with the concept of sensory rooms through education and practice, and I continue to read articles regarding the benefits of them in both a home and school setting,” Noid said. “What I really wanted to learn more about was how would I go about planning and implementing a room within our school here at Yacolt. Fortunately, I have very supportive administration here in the building, which allowed me to take this idea and make it happen.”
Noid said once she got support from administrators, she reached out to occupational therapists and peers in other districts who were successful in developing sensory rooms to garner feedback from them. She said the support she received was key to the success of providing the sensory room.
“We had our grand opening of the sensory room about seven weeks ago, and based on the data we’re collecting now, student outcomes and the feedback from our staff, implementation has been successful,” she said. “We see that those students, especially with high sensory needs, are demonstrating increased self-regulation, which of course has allowed them to participate and be more successful within the classroom which ultimately is our goal.”
Noid said staff members are educated and have the tools they need to support the students. The students have reacted positively, especially when they see the sensory room in their schedule.
“Students who are both verbal and nonverbal have communicated to staff that they are excited and that they enjoy going to that space,” Noid said.
Long-term, she feels the sensory room “contributes to the overall wellbeing of the students” by incorporating mindfulness and increased awareness of self-regulation. It also helps increase social and emotional learning.
“I think that by providing this space to enhance and promote the wellbeing of the students, they can optimize their learning and participation throughout the whole school year and beyond,” she said.
The sensory room and other accommodations for disabled children are not available in all schools, so Noid said funding can be a “limiting factor” in providing those services. She believes there should be more emphasis to provide education within communities in order to increase the understanding of the children’s needs.
“Once we have expanded on that understanding, we can work on implementing and offering more programs that are inclusive and even tailored to those children with disabilities, especially in rural areas like where I work now in Yacolt, where access to these resources is limited,” she said.
Other programs Noid thinks the kids can benefit from are family support programs, summer camps and sports. She noted how families in the area often have to travel to Portland or Vancouver to access activities or programs.
Since the sensory room is still new, Noid said other schools are waiting for Yacolt Primary School to gather more data on its success before they consider implementing one themselves. She plans to propose it to other occupational and physical therapists she meets with monthly.
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