Sensory supports engage students at Braddock Public School

A range of fidget and other kinetic toys sit on a table
Image: Fidget toys in the sensory room

A sensory room has been established at Braddock Public School to provide an outlet for children who have difficulty regulating their emotions, helping improve behaviour across the board.

The idea was suggested by a Year 6 student with autism and designed in line with recommendations from an Occupational Therapist (OT) with input from students. Students from a support class worked collaboratively with staff members to develop the rules for the sensory room and to identify which sensory equipment the school would purchase. The space includes room for 15 children and is in high demand. Students were previously having regular meltdowns, which resulted in them missing out on time in class and disruptions for their peers.

Students can access the room during school breaks under the direction and supervision of executive staff. If they need time out from their regular classroom, they can ask their teacher for a lanyard which permits them access, overseen by an off-class teacher, therapist or a School Learning and Support Officer (SLSO).

Since the introduction of the room, teachers report increased engagement in class, falling rates of suspensions at the school and decreased negative incidents in the playground. Staff feel that this is a result of students having a designated space with specialist equipment designed to assist them to regulate strong emotions. Some students seek time in the sensory room as a reward for completing all their work in class, demonstrating the success of the strategy.

The room is part of a school-wide commitment to making all spaces safe for all students.

"An Occupational Therapist spends an hour per week with a whole class and models group tasks that can be incorporated into literacy groups the rest of the week," said Michelle Drage, the school's Principal.

"The Occupational Therapist also makes observations of students in classrooms and provides advice to the classroom teacher as to how to rectify habits and practices in students, and has given excellent advice on the use of furniture and tools."

School staff have had access to training on supporting students with additional needs including; autism, sensory processing needs and trauma, and sessions with an OT and Learning and Support Teacher (LaST) on how to guide children in utilising the equipment in the sensory room.

The Occupational Therapist also models best practice use of room equipment for staff, observes and provides feedback on student sensory needs, models classroom practices that will enhance visual, auditory and tactile learning, and provides a regular newsletter to reinforce good practice.

The room is in a quiet location and its design incorporates a colourful mural, calming music and aromatherapy. Other elements that engage the senses include:

  • Soft lighting, visual games, jigsaws, water timers and changing colour lamps
  • Kinetic sand, textured cushions, thermal boards, and fidget toys
  • Balance boards, wobble cushions and swivel seats
  • Body socks, heavy work activities, weighted toys and a crash mat

Does your school have a great idea on how to improve learning and wellbeing for students with disability or additional needs? Share it with the team at: disability.strategy@det.nsw.edu.au.

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