Schools are unpredictable, busy environments that can quickly dysregulate children and staff. Children who are sensitive to different sensory information can find school a difficult place to be in and whilst we cannot take away their sensitivity, we can help retrain their brain to overcome its sensitivity and develop coping mechanisms.
Occasionally Sensory Integration Rooms are used to keep children safe when demonstrating challenging behaviour. Although it is appreciated that children can harm themselves or others when dysregulated, these rooms are not built for this purpose. Sensory Integration rooms are dedicated to stimulating, developing and meeting an individuals sensory needs by allowing them to use their senses to drive their desire to explore the environment. Therefore they should be used to provide sensory opportunities rather than safety in a crisis.
Sensory Integration rooms are filled with various pieces of equipment such as hammocks, swings, lighting projectors, mirrors, bubble tubes, ball pits, exercise balls, monkey bars and more. All these pieces of equipment help children to regulate by providing sensory feedback.
Glenwood School currently have two sensory rooms: One on the ground floor and one on the 1st floor. Regardless of what sensory room you are in, the do’s and don’ts remain the same.
Hammock swing: Glenwood’s hammock swing has four different coloured layers, which many of the children enjoy climbing through. The hammock swing is an excellent swing to use as it encourages linear (back and forth) swinging, rather than spinning (which can be overstimulating). The children can be wrapped up in the hammock by an adult, to provide deep pressure feedback, which is calming.
Here are some hammock swing activities:
with his legs over one side. Hold onto his feet and pull/push him in linear motions. Repeat this whilst singing ‘row, row, row, your boat’. Try to pull his ankles/feet in rhythm with the song, even slow the song down if needed.
Square platform swing: Glenwood’s platform swing attaches to the metal frame and is easily spun. As previously highlighted, spinning can quickly over-stimulate a child and should be avoided where possible. If a child does begin spinning, encourage them to spin the same number of times to their left as they do to their right. The platform swing is an excellent swing to encourage core control, improve postural strength and upper body control. Children can be encouraged to sit on the swing on their knees, with their legs crossed or on their stomachs.
Here are some platform swing activities:
Exercise ball: An exercise ball is an excellent resource to have as it can be used almost anywhere. It’s a great piece of equipment to encourage stretching, balance and to provide proprioceptive and vestibular feedback.
Here are some exercise ball activities:
Trampette: A trampette can be found in both Sensory Integration rooms at Glenwood School and it is an easy piece of equipment to use, however can quickly dysregulate a child if not used correctly. The motion of jumping on a trampette provides intense vestibular and proprioceptive feedback which is great for children who are under-responsive. However, for children who are presenting as over-responsive, a trampette should be used in conjunction with a cognitive activity.
Here are some activities to use when on a trampette:
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Managing RISK in the sensory integration room
Who can use a sensory integration room?
Anyone can use a sensory room. We all have a sensory profile such as enjoying roller coasters, disliking long car journeys, working in complete silence or having every light on in the house. Children or adults can use a sensory room, however most sensory rooms are directed towards children’s use.
Who would benefit from using a sensory integration room?
Sensory rooms can be enjoyed and of benefit to all individuals, however those with sensory processing difficulties will benefit most. Sensory rooms are an excellent resource to regulate a child, to provide a safe and calming environment, if used correctly. Once regulated and calm, the child is more likely to engage in fine motor, gross motor, communication and interaction based activities. Therefore, the sensory room can be used as a learning platform during a session.
What are the benefits of a sensory integration room?
How often should a child use a sensory integration room?
There is no minimum or maximum frequency that a child should use the sensory integration room. However, if used appropriately the child will not need to use the room frequently as their needs would have been met in the first session. Preferably, the room should be used a couple of times per week to provide intense sensory stimulation. In between using the Sensory Integration room a sensory diet can be developed for the child to engage in throughout the day in their classroom.
How long should we spend in the Sensory Integration room?
On average, we expect a child and an adult to be active in the sensory integration room for 15-25 minutes, depending on how much sensory information is needed to calm and regulate the child. This will provide the child with enough time to explore the room as well as providing the adult enough time to encourage organizing and calming activities.
What is the correct term for the room?
There are many different terms used to describe this room such as Sensory Integration room, Sensory room or Swing room. People can often call it a ‘time out room’, however this suggests that the room is being used inappropriately as a break out zone for a child who is dysregulated. The room should be used to meet sensory needs.