A mother in Belfast helped her son’s former primary school create a sensory room for children to regulate themselves and fight anxiety.
Allison Breadon’s son, Corey, who is now 12, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, and she says a resource like this would have been great during her days at the Belvoir Park Primary School.
The room named ‘The Den’ is now open at South Belfast School, which was made possible through Allison’s fundraising and funding from the Education Authority.
Also the founder of the Belvoir ASD Family Support Group, Allison explained to Be the importance of sensory rooms not only for children with ASD, but for all children who suffer from anxiety.
She said: “Corey was in school from kindergarten to the end, he was in social and communication from P1 to P7. He was awesome, he was awesome and the teachers were amazing, they were so sensitive.
“Corey had a few little issues in P6 and P7 and they were just fantastic with him, they were on the ball. P6 was a struggle to get Corey to school every day. Anxiety haunted him, terrible.
“I think if they had had a room like a sensory room that he could walk into before he even started class, to regulate himself, that would have helped.
“Even for all kids, any anxious kid. You see these fads by the minute with these poppets and spinning tops, all kids use them, not just autistic kids because they help when they’re anxious. are discreet, they can keep it in their hand. “
Although Corey is now in high school, Allison did this as a way to give back and hopes it will help other kids in school.
She wants it to be a comfort and comfort to parents who send their children to school.
“It would make me think twice when choosing a school… if I knew there was a sensory room in the school, especially for a child with behavioral issues, that they could fit in. Even an anxious kid, they can walk into that little room, they’re going to be safe in there, that’s just perfect.
“I just wanted to give back to school a little bit because I really appreciate how good they were with Corey,” Allison said.
The mother of two would also like every school in Northern Ireland to have this resource.
“Everyone knows someone who has autism. There are so many schools that have ASD services attached to the school and every school has children with ASD. I think it would benefit everyone. schools. “
Katherine McKnight, Acting Deputy Director and Head of Special Arrangements at Belvoir PS thanked Allison for her efforts.
She told Be: “Allison thought of the idea and asked if there would be a need at the school to have a sensory room or a place where the kids could go just to recharge their batteries and stay calm. and more ready to learn.
“It’s definitely something we’ve wanted as a school for a long time, but funding is also very limited at the school.
“She approached us and said she would like to fundraise for this which was amazing we were so grateful.”
Ms McKnight was then able to request free sensory resources from EA, and the school subsequently received funding for SEN children.
The teacher said the room is called “The Den” and will be a space for all the children in the school.
“It is above all a way where children can go to self-regulate, help them with their emotions. There is equipment inside the room that helps with proprioception, sometimes children, especially if they have diagnosed with ASD, they really want to need pressure.
“There’s a vibrating snake thing that they can put on their legs and around their necks, a weighted blanket, there are floor tiles with gel in it, they all move … Even a vestibular system. , which depends on your balance and hand-eye coordination.
“It’s really about giving the kid time, it’s very kid-led, so when they come into the room – some kids want it to be completely silent,” she said.
The room, which will also be an alternative learning space and a general wellness room, has different projectors, one of which creates a spatial theme with shooting stars to help create a calming environment.
“Sometimes, especially children with ASD, there are so many sensory outputs going to them in the classroom, it can be just too much.
“I noticed coming back from distance learning and confinement, the children have a lot more anxieties and worries, just the daily stress, or even just going back to the routine.
“I think the play is really just that they have a safe place in school that they can go to if they need to.
“If you are not happy and calm, you cannot really learn.
“We have kids, we find they are awesome in school all day and they come home and have a meltdown or a big emotional explosion and they kept it all day.
“If we use it maybe [the room] regularly with them throughout the week… maybe it’s just something they need to take a step back from the hectic school life, ”Ms. McKnight said.
The acting vice president also hopes it will be a good transition from home schooling to back to class.
She added that the school will be able to recreate life experiences that children with ASD might find traumatic, such as going to the hairdresser or to a busy train station or airport.