Barwon Heads PS Sensory RoomNewsletter
Chris Browne is a single parent to Sam, 11 who has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Chris gave up full- time work in early 2019 to focus on his son’s well being. He was continually having to collect Sam from school during the day due to the over-stimulation that was causing him to need time out from the noise and constant activity that can be very disorienting for people with autism.
Physically and mentally exhausted from the stress of managing his son and his needs, Chris contacted his Federal Member of Parliament, Libby Coker, in 2019 out of desperation. He needed urgent support for his son Sam who was struggling with severe social anxiety and not coping well in his school environment.
Chris had researched widely on how best to support Sam at home and in an educational setting. He had set up a sensory room at home and seen how beneficial it was for Sam when he needed time out to recharge and calm down when feeling stressed. He knew that a sensory room at school could be a solution to his struggles in the classroom.
To his delight, Libby called Chris back and was willing to help, following up with a $9,000 grant from the Local Schools Community Fund to set up a sensory room at Barwon Heads Primary School. Daniel Vella, the principal was supportive of the idea and could see that it would be beneficial not just for Sam, but for the whole school community.
A shipping container was brought into the school to set up as a sensory room; then it was plastered, painted and fitted with lighting and heating/cooling. Inside it has sensory equipment such as bouncy balls, social games and a mini-trampoline.
People with autism often use strategies, such as ‘stimming’ to self-sooth during times of stress, or as a repetitive behaviour which is comforting. Stimming can include hand-flapping, rocking, spinning or repetition of words and phrases. It can be used to help manage anxiety, fear, anger, excitement, or other strong emotions, similar to the way neurotypical people might bite their nails or tap their feet out of habit. Sensory equipment provides really helpful tools for kids with autism to manage stress.
Chris’ son Sam has a regular booking in the sensory room from 2.30-3.30 each day. Routine is extremely important, not only for children with autism, but for all children. This time in the sensory room allows Sam to go to a safe place to unwind and remove himself from the stresses of the classroom. Other children at the school will also benefit from using this calm space.
The equipment in the sensory room enables kids with autism to be in a safe place to manage their sensory and emotional input. The sensory room at Barwon Heads Primary School is a win-win for everyone - it’s good for teachers, good for students, good for the whole school community.
This story was originally published in Libby's June Newsletter. Please click here to subscribe to the email newsletter.Share Tweet