Updated: Apr 6
What is your fondest memory of going to school as a child? Was it a field trip? The cafeteria? While these options are fun, you most likely answered recess time. Think of this in relation to work that you currently do: somewhere around halfway through your typical work day, you take a bit of a break to eat, walk around, or anything that helps you bridge the gap between a productive morning and afternoon.
Children are given the same opportunity to get their pent-up energy out through recess time, where they are able to spend a portion of their time playing to ensure that they will be able to go back to learning with greater focus and attention. Young students with disabilities require this same break, but benefit from more particular sensory-stimulating activities.
Children diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, etc. require particular attention to their sensory needs. These disabilities cause their ability to focus on their surroundings and their work much more difficult, and as a way of ensuring that they can focus in on what they need to, special education programs utilize sensory rooms to help these students achieve their full potential within educational settings.
When children fail time for relaxation and fun, the fidgeting begins. If you’ve ever taken your children on a road trip, you know that this lack of space to move can cause agitation. Children with disabilities commonly struggle to vocalize this discomfort. When they feel that these needs are not being met, they do what they feel is necessary to make it known, which may vary from a spell of the silent treatment all the way to a full-blown tantrum. This can sometimes happen when they are getting dressed.
Being cognizant of and proactive towards identifying the signs that agitation is occurring is what allows for special education programs to help these children reach their full learning potential during their time at school. These specialized recess times can help these educators pay greater attention to the needs of each individual with a disability, and move forward with the most effective plan to ensure they can focus when it’s time to learn.
While their contents vary based on the individual needs of students, sensory rooms are spaces where people with disabilities are essentially sensory havens. Commonly outfitted with soft carpeting and various colored lighting fixtures, these spaces help those that work with individuals with disabilities learn more about each child’s sensory needs. Working alongside these children with an array of sensory toys highlights options that keep them grounded and focused when it becomes time to focus on work.
To help in the proprioceptive (awareness of one’s surrounding/balance within a space) development of children with disabilities, these spaces may contain any of the following activities to help students mellow:
Exercise Balls: Allowing these students to sit on something different than a rigid classroom chair is an excellent reprieve from the feeling of being trapped behind a desk. Being able to bounce and work with their core helps to stimulate general posture and balance, while remaining upright and attentive.
Light Walls / Punching Bags: Activities where these children are able to release any aggression towards a fun game goal work well for certain children. Whether it be a Whack-a-Mole style game or simply a punching bag, children are able to gain proprioceptive pressure to their joints through the release of some physical anger.
Controlled Throwing: Utilizing balls or beanbags like our Kozie Weighted Proprioceptive Bean Bags to feel weight on hand and arm joints are incredibly beneficial for individuals with Autism particularly. Whether it be tossing these items at a target, or trying to balance with added weight will work wonders for some children.
Body Sacs: Some children with disabilities that fidget show positive reactions to toys like our Sensory Kozie Sac, which provide children with a fun outlet to experience pressure within their arms and legs that lead to calming of their proprioceptive systems.
Swings: Some children simply need to feel linear movement, and at times, moving around and having a goal to accomplish is too much for them to be interested in. Being able to sit and still gain sensory stimulation on a swing helps to calm some agitation.
Bubble Lamps: Similar to swings, these visually-stimulating Sensory Room staples allow for those that want to simply lay down or read a book within these spaces the ability to relax through an ever-changing calming element within the space.
Quiet Spaces: Areas like TeePees lined with pillows, our Kozie Weighted Blanket and Lap Pads, bean bag chairs and a favorite calming toy is a great way to escape from over-stimulation, giving children a chance to calm themselves.
While we may not have listed a particular activity that works for your child, know that there is no set answer to helping a child with sensory processing difficulties to get their energy out and calm down. Sensory Rooms allow for children to explore the variety of options that exist for them, particularly when they are not with their parents. When school special education programs utilize these spaces, they help to form a stronger bond with their students, building trust that will not only translate into fun recess activities, but greater results when it comes time to return to the classroom.
If your child’s school has a Sensory Room, be sure to inquire from your child’s therapist, teaching staff, as well as your child what their favorite activities to utilize within these spaces are. Learn the purpose and the individual need for these activities. We offer an assortment of toys that would be able to bring the fun of a break from learning in the school’s Sensory Room into the home, and will help you to better develop a connection with your child and their sensory needs.
Since we are always looking to further help you and your child live life to the fullest, we would love to hear any toy suggestions to incorporate into the home. Along the same lines, if you are a special need educator interested in utilizing our products, or if you have any product recommendations that you see working for your students, we would love to hear them! Always remember that while each child’s needs are different, your knowledge of your child’s preferences may just help another parent/educator provide greater assistance to the child in their life