A sensory room in a middle school is providing a safe space for children with autism to refocus after a sensory overload, or satisfy a need to burn energy.
At Maryville Middle School, the new room opened this year, and is staffed by autism specialist Susan Law. She modeled the room after the one at Eugene Fields Elementary School, using noise machines with sounds of the ocean, a bed and pillows, and soft blue lights. She says students spend an average of 10 minutes in the room doing whatever they need to do to refocus and return to the classroom or their previous activities. Students can request to use the resource, or Law can send them.
Law has found that it’s important to wait for responses with interacting with a person with ASD, and to speak directly with few words for effective communication. “As a teacher, of course you like to talk, but because of how they process, they’ve already quit listening by the time you finish what you’re saying,” she said.
Autism Spectrum Disorders cover a wide range. They may have language, sensory, or social impairments, or all three may be present. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, one in every 68 children in the United States is affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. People with ASD have difficulty understanding facial expressions or tone of voice. They may also be sensitive to lights, tastes, textures, and scents.