Sensory Support for Students with Special Needs

July 9, 2018

The children who come to Green Chimneys School struggle with a wide range of social-emotional issues that can seriously challenge a child’s ability to cope in certain situations. The opportunity to change the environment or sensory inputs can make a tremendous difference in how well, and how quickly, a child can recover from a difficult moment.

The Sensory Space at the Brewster campus has easily become one of the most popular locations for students in need of a break. The Sensory Space is a converted classroom outfitted with furniture, activities, and personal items that allow students to explore individual sensory preferences and practice calming strategies in a safe and isolated place.

A body sock is a sensory item that provides resistance and compression since it is grounding to the body. It also blocks visual stimuli, aiding in reduced feelings of being overwhelmed.

Many students utilize the space to calm down in moments of stress, often by turning on the essential oil diffuser and listening to music or a podcast on Bluetooth headphones. Others come to blow off steam by jumping into the Yogibo beanbag crash area or setting up an obstacle course of cushions and gym mats. Students returning from a home visit or arriving after a long bus ride often like to jump on the bounce disc or do a puzzle with staff, to help ease their transition back into program.

Boasting 100+ visits per week, the Sensory Space continues to grow in popularity, which is spurring the addition of sensory tools in Green Chimneys classrooms, dorms, and recreation activities. Classes will soon have their own noise-canceling headphones, handheld fidgets and Yogibo beanbags. Sensory activities will also be integrated into daily recreation programming, including sensory-based meeting groups for residential students.

Beyond the students at Green Chimneys, our Community Based Services staff is incorporating similar sensory tools and activities into its programs for Putnam County youth. The Community Outreach Center in the Village of Brewster is planning its own sensory space to provide the local youth it serves with access to calming and soothing environments.

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