Woodland Park provides sensory room for students


Woodland Park Elementary recently unveiled a new sensory room for students. A sensory room offers a therapeutic and supportive environment that promotes sensory exploration, relaxation, skill development, and emotional regulation. It can be a valuable resource for students with sensory processing difficulties, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, anxiety, and other sensory-related challenges.

The idea of a sensory room was presented by Comprehensive Development Classroom teacher Alli Wolford to Woodland Park Elementary administration and Special Education supervisor Larry Thompson.

 “As the number of students in need of sensory stimulation or a calming space increased, we recognized the necessity for a larger area that could accommodate multiple students simultaneously,” Wolford said. “After discussions with Principal Juli Johnson, Vice Principal Amber Mullinax, and Dr. Larry Thompson, it was decided to repurpose an existing classroom. We collaborated to develop a plan for transforming this classroom into an expanded version of the existing sensory room. Our goal was to create a space that would benefit all individuals who use it daily.”

While certain times of the day are allocated for the original occupants, the room now has an established schedule accommodating multiple needs. English as a Second Language teachers (ESL), speech, and educational assistants have access to the space and the items in it.

“After identifying the available space, I reached out to other special education teachers in our building to gather their input on what the sensory room should entail,” Wolford said. “It required careful consideration and research to decide on the items to purchase for the room. We aimed for items that were engaging, structured, creative, and multifunctional.”

The sensory room was funded primarily through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) budget. The school also received donations from local businesses. BASF also made a monetary donation in honor of Autism Awareness Month and has purchased several items in the sensory room for students to enjoy.

The sensory room houses items for Fine Motor Skills and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities in addition to elements that promote Gross Motor Skills, such as stepping stones and a swing. Other features in the room encourage sensory exploration through texture, visual elements, color, and sound.

“Various staff and support personnel monitor the students in the sensory room including teachers, occupational therapists, and speech therapists,” Wolford said. “The duration of time spent in the sensory room and the activities in which the student engages are determined by the teacher or therapist.”

The room was available to students and teachers at the end of the school year and will be fully functional and available to students and teachers again this fall.         


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