One student swayed in a swing suspended in the middle of the room while another student tested out the sensory lighting, and a third explored the tactile world inside a ball pit as members of the school community looked on. Chalker Elementary School was able to open the school’s new sensory room thanks to support from the community, including Chalker’s PTA and Piedmont Church.
Parents, teachers, and supporters from Piedmont Church began planning the space last fall to help students who need sensory input options so they are better prepared for learning and interacting with others. Creating a space for exceptional students was a project close to Principal Nicole Bristow’s heart. Having served as an educator in the special education field for 17 years, Chalker’s principal recognized the benefits a sensory room would provide students.
“We are just so blessed to have partners, our PTA and Piedmont, that have supported us throughout this journey,” praised Principal Bristow.
Chalker’s principal is not the only one who feels blessed. Chalker parents, like Janessa McAdams, point to Principal Bristow and Chalker’s teachers as the true blessings.
“It really just means a lot to me that there are people in the community that are good and their hearts are good, and they use their position and their title to do small miracles every day that you never even see. For me to know that my son is now in a room where he’s being loved and taken care of and thought of to the point where the principal is willing to consider installing a sensory room for children that need sensory stimulation, I mean, that’s just above and beyond for me as a parent,” Ms. McAdams gushed.
Ms. McAdams was grateful that Principal Bristow listened and discussed the individual needs of her child and opened up the opportunity for Piedmont Church to fund its 15th sensory room inside schools. The Chalker parent, who was at the school for the installation of the sensory items, returned for the ribbon cutting and grand opening.
“I’m just excited to be able to see the kids today and see them playing and actually utilizing the equipment and seeing their faces. It was a really big blessing for me,” Ms. McAdams said. “It absolutely just touched my heart more than I can really put in words. There’s a special feeling when children have that just expression of joy.”
Kristen Davis is one of the Chalker teachers behind the sensory room design. For Ms. Davis, it was important that the space worked for all Chalker students and their unique abilities from pre-K through fifth grade. As a teacher, Ms. Davis wanted to create a space that would serve students’ sensory needs not met through traditional schoolwork. Ms. Davis also envisioned a space where her students could calm themselves or excite themselves so they are ready to learn.
“My students are going to come every day between our reading and our math segments to kind of reset between those hard work times,” Ms. Davis explained. “We have visuals for the different choices in here, and I envision them coming and choosing the one or two things they want to do, doing that, and then leaving. It’s not like run around and see all the things.”
Every part of the room was selected intentionally to support a specific sensory system and student need. Whether you ask their principal, parent, or teacher, the space is exactly what the students needed.
“So much of our job as special education teachers is making the world kind of fit for our students because the world is not made for our students,” Ms. Davis added. “We spend so much of our time trying to modify and accommodate, but this space is for them. They can come in here, and it’s already perfect for them. We don’t have to change anything.”