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The importance of sensory rooms in schools

Gareth Jones, Founder of Experia, explains how sensory rooms can accommodate autistic students

Posted by Lucinda Reid | January 12, 2017 | Interiors

Around 700,000 people in the UK have autism, more than one in every 100; and whilst there is no cure, having access to the right support can make all the difference.

According to the National Autistic Society, 63 per cent of children on the autism spectrum are not in the kind of school their parents believe would best support them, whether this is due to teaching, students or facilities. Yet every school, whether mainstream or special education, can accommodate autistic students through the installation of sensory environments.

Sensory products and rooms, designed in partnership with occupational therapists and health professionals, create relaxing and calming yet stimulating environments that work to develop users’ sensory needs. And they aren’t just designed for users with autism; sensory products can help with a variety of sensory and development needs, including learning disabilities and even dementia.

Experia is one of the UK’s leading designers, manufacturers and installers of sensory equipment. We create all our products from our factory in Yorkshire and design bespoke environments and products for schools, hospitals and community centres across the country. We work closely with health professionals, teachers and parents to tailor our products to meet the needs of the individual users.

The room gives pupils a sensory diet, promoting language, aiding fine and gross motor skills and hand and eye co-ordination. Importantly, it also gives them a safe space to learn in, promoting pupils’ self-help skills as well as spiritual, moral and cultural development.

Many of these are children with specialist learning needs, including autism and learning disabilities, and we work closely with schools and organisations to install sensory rooms and environments offering users a calm space to develop their skills. 

We also work closely with a number of charities, including the Lord’s Taverners, which distributes grants to schools and community centres to fund sensory rooms. We’ve designed and fitted more than 100 state-of-the-art rooms for the charity’s partner schools across the country.

One of those installations was at St John Vianney School in Manchester, which demonstrates how valuable sensory equipment can be in helping users. The specialist education provider has more than 120 pupils ages five to 19 benefiting from tailored learning experiences from teachers, support staff and therapists.

The school wanted a new sensory space which provided a calm environment for pupils to develop their sight, sound, touch and hearing and to encourage independence. Experia worked with staff to develop a tailored room which included a range of innovative products including wireless technology to allow staff and pupils to operate equipment in the room with iPads.

Julie Griffin, a Teaching Assistant at St John Vianney School and a member of its governing board, said: “Our new sensory room encourages wellbeing by design and allows our pupils to access equipment independently. In a specialist learning environment, it’s vital that we are using the very best technology to help our pupils and their sensory needs. The products in our new sensory room are an essential part of our pupils’ development, providing a calm space for them to learn and grow independently.”

“The room gives pupils a sensory diet, promoting language, aiding fine and gross motor skills and hand and eye co-ordination,” continued Julie. “Importantly, it also gives them a safe space to learn in, promoting pupils’ self-help skills as well as spiritual, moral and cultural development.”

More and more institutions and businesses are thinking about catering for autistic customers; Asda and Toys R Us recently launched autism hours, where visitors could shop without noise or distraction; airports across the country are looking at becoming more autism-friendly, offering sensory rooms and dedicated visitor centres and guides and Experia has recently signed a deal in partnership with BT, the Lord’s Taverners and charity The Shippey Foundation, to design and install bespoke sensory rooms for all the Premiership club stadiums over the coming months.

As such, it is vital that schools cater for all their students, especially those with emotional, behavioural and learning needs, and sensory products should be the first step in that direction.  

For more information about Experia, a sensory product specialist, visit their website.

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