Reply To: Sensory rooms

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    It really really really depends on what you need. In my experience 80-90% of sensory rooms are not used effectively and have equipment that is totally unsuitable for the children they are supporting. You haven’t said if you’re mainstream/special school or the age or ability of the children so a few generic tips.

    Step 1 – Think about what your children actually need – do they need calming/alerting – what will help with learning goals
    Step 2 – Think about how the space will be used – will it be an extra space for reading/phonics groups as well as, in this case it needs to be less overwhelming
    Step 3 – If you have children who are independently mobile: have as few mirrors as possible – in my experience these are highly distracting and reduce the engagement with adults/peers in the space
    Step 4 – How will you train your staff to use it/set specific targets for children?
    Step 5 – Also consider there recommended maintenance schedule for the equipment/parts that will need replacing and your budget for this (e.g. how much is it to replace the projector bulb when it blows and will you be able to afford this when the time comes, or will you have an expensive piece of metal/plastic attached to your ceiling)

    Far too often these spaces are overwhelming and used ineffectively as a play room. It is really important to think about the needs of the children you currently have, and the needs of future children along with the skills and availability of your staff. One or two calming lights (disco balls are usually better than bubble tubes as children can’t climb onto them/stimm against them/the mirrors) at maximum in my opinion, rather than 5+ which are often installed. And if you have children that put things in their mouth I would avoid fibre optic lights at all costs, if you have children who might climb/hang avoid the fibre optic curtains and also really consider the health and safety of the configuration. I recently went into a school with a cracked bubble tube from a child clearly leaning against/shaking it at one point.

    Joanna Grace is awesome, she has a book in addition to the podcast above. Her work is based with children PMLD children, however the principles remain the same in terms of making sure there are engagement goals and the rooms are used effectively!