BY Michelle Houghton
The students in my classroom are on the autism spectrum. They have unique needs that vary from academic to social to sensory. At times, sitting in the classroom chairs proves to be difficult for them. Also, I have a sensory area set up but it is lacking in suitable materials. Tactile items such as fidget toys, brushes, chews and bouncy bands are just several of the items that would help my program be more successful.
Having the appropriate kind of sensory items is imperative to the development of the students in my classroom. These items will help my students foster skills such as social interactions, hand/eye co-ordination and fine/gross motor abilities.
Various textures can be difficult for the students in my program to tolerate. Sensory toys that are textured can help a child overcome difficulties with touch and texture. These items can help a child with autism learn how to interact with the world around them.
At times, my students may go into sensory overload. Fidget items can help the student to decompress without having to interact with a person (which at times can be difficult for students who have social deficits such as students on the autism spectrum).
How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)
When a student in my program becomes escalated, he/she will go to the break area or their desk. There are several visuals to remind them of how they can ‘cool down’ when upset. If I had more sensory materials, my students would be able to deescalate more quickly and in a more appropriate manner. My staff and I will be able to evaluate whether or not the students have calmed down through observations and data collection. If one item is not successful, then the student can move onto something else that may be more effective. The goal is to get the students back on task and stay on task. The quicker the students can return to the lessons, the more likely they are to retain the material being taught. In addition, some of the sensory items can even be brought to the work are to be used during instruction time.
At times, sitting at a desk can be difficult. The stools and bands (for the desks when regular chairs are being used) can help students self regulate and focus on the task at hand.
Benefit to the students and the school
The goal for my students is to get them integrated with peers. Sometimes, they have difficulty due to sensory overload. If I have a plethora of sensory items, it is likely that the students will be able to bring items with them so that they are not leaving the inclusion classroom, returning to my classroom and then deescalating. If they can calm down outside of the classroom that they are attending, then they will be able to go back more quickly and gain social skills because of being with typical peers for a greater amount of time. In addition, typical peers will learn tolerance for those that may be different from them. This will also help them understand (instead of being met with confusion) should they ever meet a child with special needs outside of school.
Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)
Ongoing throughout the 2016-17 school year (and beyond).