Principal - September/October 2019 - 30

New Sensa
7 tips for building a successful
sensory room in your school
By Maria McDonald

A

nyone can reach a breaking point and lose
the ability to focus due to overstimulation,
writes Richard Restak in his book, The New Brain:
How the Modern Age Is Rewiring Your Mind. This is
especially true among children; a student who
"acts out" may be unable to keep up with the
demands of a stimulus-filled environment.
Sometimes, a student encounters that stimulus before stepping onto the school bus. Outside
of school, for example, a student might have
a volatile relationship with a parent or sibling
or be losing sleep over a family tragedy. Every
student we meet has a story, and each situation
impacts their reaction to a variety of factors.
Unable to process sensory stimulation properly, students can often become hyporesponsive
or hyperresponsive. They may resort to selfinjurious, aggressive, or other unsafe behaviors
that interfere with learning and undermine
the safety of the school setting. But there is an
intervention that can help: the multisensory
environment (MSE), or "sensory room."

A Room of One's Own

An MSE provides a safe environment for
individuals to manage, control, manipulate,
intensify, or reduce stimulation as needed to
promote healthy responses. And they are gaining popularity in schools across the country.
Specializing in instruction for students requiring special education due to social or emotional
behaviors that interfere with learning, PACE
West in Gainesville, Virginia, incorporated an
MSE into its campus design. The sensory room is
a therapeutic space with a variety of equipment
that allows students to manage their own behaviors in a calm, safe environment.
PACE West's MSE encourages students to
focus and regulate their behaviors quickly so

30

Principal n September/October 2019

that they can return to class ready to learn after
an outburst or stressful event. Not only has it
helped produce significant declines in behavior
referrals and suspensions, but it also has helped
increase the time during which students learn
in the classroom, positively impacting state standardized testing scores.
Observation shows that students are more
relaxed, calm, and communicative after using
the sensory room, and they are more ready to
learn. The sensory room provides the therapy
necessary to allow students to return to the
classroom to learn and interact appropriately
with others.
Below are seven tips for designing, developing, and successfully opening an effective
sensory room in your school:
1. Assign, label, and promote the space.
Designate and repurpose a space as calming or safe-a calming corner, time-out
area, or sensory room. This creates the
mindset that there is a safe place to go
when behavior is uncontrollable. When
students know there is a place they can go
to "freak out" (fight or flight), it can foster a
sense of safety and calm.
2. Use calming colors and lighting. Instead
of painting the walls in vibrant reds and
www.naesp.org


https://www.amazon.com/New-Brain-Modern-Rewiring-Your/dp/B000GYI1Q0 https://www.amazon.com/New-Brain-Modern-Rewiring-Your/dp/B000GYI1Q0 http://www.naesp.org

Principal - September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Principal - September/October 2019

From the Editor
Snapshots
5 Things
Getting to Why
A Brighter Future for Personalized Learning
Models of Voice and Choice
When Rural Gets Personal
Research Roundup: The Personal Touch
New Sensation
The Language of Learning
Giving Back, Together
In the Spotlight
Practitioner’s Corner
Early Career
Raising the Bar
The Reflective Principal
Speaking Out
Parents & Schools
NAESP Partners & Advertiser Index
Principal - September/October 2019 - Cover1
Principal - September/October 2019 - Cover2
Principal - September/October 2019 - 1
Principal - September/October 2019 - 2
Principal - September/October 2019 - 3
Principal - September/October 2019 - From the Editor
Principal - September/October 2019 - 5
Principal - September/October 2019 - Snapshots
Principal - September/October 2019 - 7
Principal - September/October 2019 - 5 Things
Principal - September/October 2019 - 9
Principal - September/October 2019 - Getting to Why
Principal - September/October 2019 - 11
Principal - September/October 2019 - 12
Principal - September/October 2019 - 13
Principal - September/October 2019 - 14
Principal - September/October 2019 - 15
Principal - September/October 2019 - A Brighter Future for Personalized Learning
Principal - September/October 2019 - 17
Principal - September/October 2019 - 18
Principal - September/October 2019 - 19
Principal - September/October 2019 - Models of Voice and Choice
Principal - September/October 2019 - 21
Principal - September/October 2019 - 22
Principal - September/October 2019 - 23
Principal - September/October 2019 - When Rural Gets Personal
Principal - September/October 2019 - 25
Principal - September/October 2019 - 26
Principal - September/October 2019 - 27
Principal - September/October 2019 - Research Roundup: The Personal Touch
Principal - September/October 2019 - 29
Principal - September/October 2019 - New Sensation
Principal - September/October 2019 - 31
Principal - September/October 2019 - The Language of Learning
Principal - September/October 2019 - 33
Principal - September/October 2019 - 34
Principal - September/October 2019 - 35
Principal - September/October 2019 - Giving Back, Together
Principal - September/October 2019 - 37
Principal - September/October 2019 - 38
Principal - September/October 2019 - 39
Principal - September/October 2019 - In the Spotlight
Principal - September/October 2019 - 41
Principal - September/October 2019 - Practitioner’s Corner
Principal - September/October 2019 - 43
Principal - September/October 2019 - Early Career
Principal - September/October 2019 - 45
Principal - September/October 2019 - Raising the Bar
Principal - September/October 2019 - 47
Principal - September/October 2019 - The Reflective Principal
Principal - September/October 2019 - 49
Principal - September/October 2019 - 50
Principal - September/October 2019 - 51
Principal - September/October 2019 - Speaking Out
Principal - September/October 2019 - 53
Principal - September/October 2019 - Parents & Schools
Principal - September/October 2019 - NAESP Partners & Advertiser Index
Principal - September/October 2019 - 56
Principal - September/October 2019 - Cover3
Principal - September/October 2019 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20201112
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20200910
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20200506
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20200304
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20200102
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_wallacesup_20200102
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20191112
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_Crayolasup_20190910
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20190910
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20190506
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_wallace_20190304
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20190304
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20190102
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20181112
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_supplement_20181112
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_Crayolasup_20180910
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20180910
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_wallacesupp_20180506
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20180506
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20180304
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_mottsupp_20180102
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20180102
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20171112
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20170910
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_crayolasupp_20170910
https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/NAESP/principal_20170708
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/principal_20170304
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/principal_20170102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/principal_20161112
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/principal_crayolasupp_20160910
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/principal_20160910
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com