ECLC of New Jersey’s Chatham school for students with special needs is grateful to receive a $1,500 grant from the Investors Foundation for a new Sensory Room to provide therapy for the growing number of students with autism.
“It was a great pleasure to personally see the great work and love given to the students of ECLC,” said Investors Assistant Vice President and Chatham Branch Manager Gregory Schmidt. “I was honored to be able to provide the Grant on behalf of Investors Bank and Investors Foundation.”
ECLC is celebrating its 30th year in a former Chatham public school building. During that time, the student population has dramatically changed, requiring new tools and techniques to support them. Three decades ago, ECLC students primarily were classified with learning disorders, such as dyslexia. Today, about one-third are diagnosed with autism or another disability with a behavioral component.
For students with autism and certain other disabilities, the everyday world at times can become overwhelming. Walking into a classroom might seem like walking into a crowded nightclub, with flashing lights and booming music. At any point in the day, students may start to feel overloaded and “dysregulated.” In contrast, there is another group of students who are “under-reactive.” These students need to increase their alertness and activity level to succeed at school.
The Sensory Room creates a new, permanent space to help students smooth out their emotional states. It creates an atmosphere of soothing calm and quiet. The room is a “Snoezelen Room” and delivers stimuli to various senses, using dim, lighting effects, color, gentle pressure, sounds, music, scents and vibration.
A therapist, teacher, or aide always accompanies students when they use the room. Students come to relax or take a break from class, when they are over-stimulated or during times of stress. They can also earn time in the room as part of their behavior plan. Each student has a customized list of activities and uses for the Sensory Room.
Benefits of a Sensory Room
The room is dimly lit when in use and quiet, calming music is played. A bubble tube light, with flowing bubbles and soft changing lights provides a multi-sensory calming environment. The equipment is highly specialized. It includes a gentle “squeeze machine” that provides deep pressure, controlled by the student. A contour “relax” chair allows students to sit in a semi-reclined position on a soft surface. There is a hammock swing to offer slow, rhythmic swinging and a gentle squeeze. Students can climb into inflatable canoe-shaped seats, which provide a steady hugging pressure. Weighted blankets are gently placed on students to provide additional pressure.
“As the student population has changed, our school has proactively addressed their needs,” said Principal Jason Killian. “We are always looking for new ways to support our students and help them thrive. We have found tremendous success with providing sensory breaks and sensory input to help students regulate and succeed in school.”
Parents of children with special needs and any member of the public can arrange for a visit and tour ECLC’s school at 21 Lum Ave., by contacting Principal Killian at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973-601-5410).