The stickers and other sensory techniques are part of an evolving understanding of emotions and how minds learn best.
“There’s been a lot of research on just the way kids’ brains work. They can’t sit and listen forever,” Parent says. “Some kids can really listen a lot better while they’re moving.”
In contrast, there are “break” corners in classrooms where kids can go for a moment when they need to regroup and refocus. Grant funding helped purchase more needed items for these corners, as well as the enhancement of a dedicated sensory classroom, filled with a number of activities and experiences tailored for students diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
“All a lot of little kids like to feel that stuff — but especially the kids that are on the spectrum, or kids that just have that sensory need,” Parent says. “Some kids just need to feel things. They need pressure — it just helps them.”
Examples in the room include a sequin-lined panel on the wall that kids can feel, a wooden clubhouse, and gel “stickers” on the floor that change color when you step on them. The grant funding also allows the enhancement of the sensory room with new tools, including a swing, a new trampoline and mats for the clubhouse.
“This is a place where kids can go with an adult in the building, maybe a paraprofessional or a counselor, and they can go and spend five minutes or so on a project or activity of their choice,” Parent says.
Time spent in the sensory room may be a reward, or provide a longer pause than the break corner in a classroom can offer. It’s all part of an ongoing effort to meet students where they are.
“Our job is to reach all kids. And in this school, we do have quite a few kids that struggle,” Parent says. “I mean, things as simple as the break spots, but also our teaching strategies and everything — it all goes together. This is just one piece of it. We have some really, really great things in place here.”
By Kaitlyn McConnell, writer in residence for the Community Foundation of the Ozarks