Sensory Rooms and Special Education

Six students from the Watson Institute’s Education Center Sewickley visited Slippery Rock University’s sensory room last week, experiencing different lights, textures, smells and sounds designed to stimulate their senses. Watson special education teachers, Ashlee Sias and Kaitlyn Gorniak recognize the positive impact sensory experiences have on their students, many of whom have neurological impairments such as Cerebral Palsy and Cortical Visual Impairment.

Watson special education teachers, Sias and Gorniak facilitated the visit to the sensory room, collaborating with Dr. Joseph Merhaut, Special Education Department Chair at Slippery Rock University. The students, ranging in age from 5 to 12, enjoyed the atmosphere of the dark room, interacting with the lights, walking on the water bed, and using a color pad to activate a light board on the wall. “The lab is calming and provides deep input,” said Kaitlyn Gorniak, Special Education Teacher at the Watson Institute.

The sensory room provides a calming atmosphere in which the students felt comfortable exhibiting positive behaviors that they may not have typically exhibited outside of this setting. Rocco, a Watson student with limited mobility, moved more than Gorniak, his teacher, had ever seen him move when he was placed on the water bed. “In the calm atmosphere provided by the sensory lab, our students were able to do things they typically aren’t able to do.” said Gorniak.

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