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New sensory rooms help students self-regulate and re-engage

Monday, January 30, 2023

In December, staff at Brooklyn Center Middle and High School STEAM implemented three sensory rooms for students receiving special education services. These rooms provide a space for students to self-regulate, take care of their emotional and sensory needs, and re-engage in their learning.

The project began when Amber Gunderson, special education teacher, took note of students’ needs that could be better met with another space outside of the classroom. “Sometimes students have had ‘enough’ and just need to step away. They can get overstimulated and need a quiet space. Or sometimes, they are disengaged and just need a different space to get re-organized,” Gunderson said.

Teachers worked with BCS Occupational Therapist Savannah Sisk to bring the rooms to life. Sisk provided research and examples of equipment and ensured collaboration with each teacher to meet the unique needs of their students. They ordered supplies in the fall and worked to set up all equipment during a staff professional development day in December so students would return to school to see the rooms completed. 

One room is located directly off a middle school center-based classroom, while the second room is situated between two high school center-based classrooms. The final room is located between two middle school special education resource classrooms. Inside, one can find a variety of materials like sensory gel tiles, a rocking game chair, sound machine, fidgets, intentional wall decorations, and more. 

“When looking at items in a sensory room, we try to consider the different sensory systems, the needs of students, and what will provide calming/relaxing input,” said Sisk. “Because these rooms are small, they are meant to provide more calming regulation, but with options for gentle movement to help stay alert.”

Since their implementation, the rooms have been a great success. Students are able to use them at any time with the permission of their teachers. “Students are less distracted and move around the room less," Gunderson said. “Once students take a break, they return more alert and ready to put in more effort than before.”