For many, the first years of school can be a frightening time. Not knowing other students or leaving your parents for hours on end can be hard for any child, especially when living with a disability. The caring and dedicated faculty at Whispering Forest Elementary in Slidell, Louisiana, are well aware of this fact and on a mission to help make school a fun and happy experience for every student. But with over 560 students both abled and disabled, how can they expect to handle every situation when all their needs are different? Even students with the same disability react different. Some, when frightened or upset, can be soothed by calm music. Others may react better to playing with soft, sensory friendly objects or toys. Students with a visual impairment may have a sensitivity to light and need a dimly lit area. Well, what if there was a private classroom that could accommodate all of these needs and more?
A Classroom Not Meant for Learning
Whispering Forest is in the process of designing and implementing a complete sensory room. This room will be unlike any other accommodation they have to offer. Fit for any need, a sensory room is a therapeutic space with a variety of equipment that provides students with special needs a personalized sensory input; to help them calm and focus themselves so they can be better prepared for learning and interacting with others. “Its very hard to explain what the room is and how it works and how it benefits people, without seeing it and experiencing it”, stressed Whispering Forest teacher Peyton Capretto. At first glance it is common the room will be mistaken as a play area. I mean, what kids wouldn’t love diving into a crash pad or jumping on a waterbed? But for children with sensory, mental, and behavioral disabilities, these activities are equally as therapeutic as they are enjoyable. Many children with autism, sensory processing disorder, and other disabilities can experience a sensory overload. A sensory overload is an episode where the five senses take in more than the brain can process. These episodes can happen at anytime, even something as simple as multiple conversations or bright flashing lights can cause an episode. For young children this can be an extremely frightening experience. That is why a safe, conducive environment can play a major role in working through it and preparing for future incidents.
Now this room wouldn’t just aid in calming and helping students suffering from sensory overloads. These rooms are also a great way to help children with special needs put themselves in the proper mindset for learning. Students in the Pre-K to 3rd grade levels don’t always focus and pay attention in the classroom. When you can get the students in the right mindset, they will keep focus and increase the effectiveness of each lesson. Sometimes kids just need to blow off steam and get out some energy/anxiety. When children enjoy the learning process, they are more likely to succeed. More so, they are less likely to act up. Bored students become disruptive students, even when they don’t mean to be. This says nothing about the true character of that student, but kids will be kids. It is important to remember and embrace that fact. Allowing small freedoms in a controlled environment where they can throw objects or run and dive into pillows can be all a wild child needs sometimes.
The Sensory Room Décor
Where many sensory rooms have similar objects and equipment, each is unique in its own way. The design at Whispering Forest was strategically planned to have a sensory input for every child’s needs. So what will their room consist of, you might ask? We start with the needs of the students and what would help them best calm themselves and prepare for learning. These needs can range across multiple senses from visual, to sound, and lastly physical. For the visual aids, Whispering Forest plans to implement multiple acrylic mirrors, 2 interactive bubble tubes, and a number of effects projectors. All of which hold a therapeutic purpose. Sound can have a major impact on people with special needs or sensory disabilities. In the sensory room, calming and peaceful sounds/music are all around. Through multiple stereos, sound systems, and speakers, children can listen to sounds of nature, or light calming music depending on what they react to. But that’s not all. In addition, a vibroacoustic platform will be installed which not only plays music but will vibrate in accordance with the beat. Lastly, for physical accommodations. There will be a waterbed surrounded by crash pads and floor mats for the students to lay on and jump into. All these accommodations sound like great fun and excitement, but their true nature is shown when they are seen in action. The impact they can have on an upset child is unlike any other option a school can offer.
Dreamscape’s First Efforts of Support
Recently, on Saturday June 1st, the Dreamscape Foundation teamed up with Twitch Streamer: PaintWithJade, to host a 12 hour charity stream event. But for Jade that wasn’t enough. She decided to continue on and dedicated her following 2 streams towards the campaign as well. As we are still wrapping up the final details and preparing for the raffle prize drawing, we anticipate that through Jade’s efforts, $800-$900 will be contributed towards the school’s fundraising goal of just over $11,400. While we still have a ways to go, this truly was an incredible first step towards helping hundreds of children get the most out of their education. Our next event is still to be determined, but rest assured, there is still more to come! Lastly, all of us at the Dreamscape Foundation and Whispering Forest would like to thank Jade for her efforts and support!
For more information on Whispering Forest’s campaign and how to get involved, please feel free to give us a call: (239) 325-1881 or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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