Take for example the soft play room- the room where all children long to be! Oh and I’ll let you into a little trade secret- it’s where most children’s therapists long to be too! It is an OT’s paradise when set up properly.. as it allows children to explore movement through space and offers tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive input. Ideally this room should be full all the time! This is a self regulation room for our sensory seekers, an alerting room for our low activity children, a calming room for the sensory overloaded and a great way to provide body awareness necessary for sitting still, reading/ writing/ getting dressed etc.
This year two of the schools, where we provide regular occupational therapy input, are building new premises. Both are being designed and built specifically for children with special educational needs. The schools have approached us for our knowledge of sensory equipment, and because our occupational therapists work in these schools we can advise for their specific needs.
Last year we were involved in the planning stages of a new build annexe, to a special academy, which included classrooms and communal areas. The teaching staff and I sat down to discuss the needs of the children in order to provide management with a wish list of equipment: furniture, lighting, placement of whiteboards etc. We did well and put our case forward for some larger pieces of equipment.
We now have new classrooms with access to zuma chairs, chew buddies, fiddle toys, ear defenders, weighted blankets and vests and to a communal sensory area- with large beanbags, a steamroller, tunnels, crash mats, barrels, soft play blocks, lights, tactile paths. Each half term we change the theme of the sensory area; led by the teaching staff the area becomes a walk in the forest (Gruffalo style) or a shop or a play kitchen. We add sensory elements to enhance and enrich the children’s learning. Always through the sight/smell/sound/taste/ touch systems. And through adding pushing/pulling/climbing we can add sensory movement opportunities to enhance body awareness, coordination and self regulation.
Please do get in touch with us if you want advice on setting up sensory areas in your school, classroom or home. We love to share our knowledge of play based sensory motor ideas and equipment, and I for one am always happy to demonstrate how things work