What and Why:
Sensory spaces/rooms are locations within a school building that are utilized to help students attain a calm and attentive state of learning. They may be a specified room or even a space within an existing room such as a resource room. These spaces may not be located in every building, however, sensory needs can still be met by utilizing sensory breaks and sensory strategies (see handout).
- These spaces may be used for students that need a break from the sensory stimulation found in the classroom.
- These spaces may be used for students that need additional opportunities to move and seek out sensory input to attain a calm state for learning.
An ALE should NOT double as a Sensory Space as directed by our district policy!
Sensory spaces can include a variety of items that allow for movement and deep-pressure input.
- Mini-trampolines, ball pits or tunnels, overstuffed pillows/crash mats, large exercise balls, swings, gliders, tactile/fidget items are all good options for a sensory space.
Sensory spaces should also provide a decrease in noise and visual stimulation as compared to the classroom setting.
- Minimal fluorescent lighting (use natural light from the window or remove some of the light bulbs)
- Minimal noise
How and When to Implement:
Sensory spaces are set up to be utilized by students at any time during the day, even prior to school if the student gathering space is one with an abundant amount of stimulation and commotion.
- Consultation with building occupational therapist is needed for students identified with sensory processing dysfunction to determine a student’s sensory needs. However, this space is supervised by the building teachers and administration so it may be used with other students as deemed appropriate by the school.
- Time spent in the sensory room is child dependent, but a sensory break lasting 5-10 minutes approximately every 2 hours is a standard recommendation. Not all of these breaks would be in a sensory space.
- It is also important to consider the child’s schedule, as some portions of the day (such as PE class or recess) could be naturally occurring sensory breaks so an additional break near that time may not be needed.
- Documentation of time spent in a sensory space, the activities the student chooses, and the behavior exhibited when the student returns to class is critical in determining the effectiveness.
Useful Resources to Learn More:
Ideas for items for sensory spaces can be found in the below links. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you consult with the building occupational therapist for suggestions prior to ordering. Sensory items are often purchased with building funds (special education or PTO), fund-a-need requests, or grants.
local stores such as Walmart or Target
Click to return to Best Practices for Supporting Students with Autism
Information compiled by Lincoln Public Schools Autism Team (September 2015)