The Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services division of special education at Chautauqua Lake Central School has unveiled a sensory room for special needs students.
With the fundraising help of Cathy Barber, a parent of a pupil attending the BOCES program, the room is now open for use.
The sensory room is designed to soothe, calm, and stimulate a student's senses and serves as a quiet, safe, and restful space that provides support to children before behavioral outbursts. It includes a variety of experiences including visual, auditory, tactile, and vibration sensations.
Pictured, from left are Benjamin Spitzer, Chautauqua Lake Central School district superintendent; Joanne Haumesser, Chautauqua Lake Central School special education teacher; Cathy Barber and son Jake, and Kevin Bourgoine, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES supervisor of special education at Chautauqua Lake School, officially opening the sensory room.
Haumesser works with Jake in the senory room.
"We are very proud to offer our sensory room to our students as a way to promote a healthy learning environment," said Kevin Bourgoine, supervisor of special education at Chautauqua Lake Central School. "This safe haven is not used as a 'time-out' room to seclude students. It provides them a relaxing experience prior to and after undertaking stressful activities."
Space for the room was available in 2013 when it was first proposed, but not everything necessary for it to be a success was at the ready. Barber, whose son Jake is a student at Chautauqua Lake, was instrumental in generating funds for the equipment for the room through a number of community initiatives, including a basket giveaway at an Autism Awareness Night at a Jamestown Jammers baseball game. Teachers, parents, and supporters from the area have donated generously to help BOCES stock the room with soft LED "bubble" lighting, an iPod for calm, soothing sounds and music, weighted blankets, comfortable mats, visual light boxes, and finger toys to enhance the overall comforting sensation of the room.
"It's important to let the children guide the way to what they find relaxing and interesting when they go into the room,' Barber said. "Teachers are finding it a great resource to help students learn and also enjoy their time at school."
The sensory room is open for all student use and is supervised through a collaborative effort of Erie 2 BOCES staff. Children typically spend 10 to 15 minutes in the room per session, but teachers have the ability to determine appropriate times for its use.
"Already the room is being used effectively with many of our students," Bourgoine said. "This is an excellent resource in furthering student achievement, and we look forward to providing more options in the coming months."
A second Autism Awareness Night is scheduled with the Jamestown Jammers on Wednesday, July 23. Parties interested in donating basket giveaway items may contact Cathy Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 962-2222.