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Sensation Station-Sensory Room

Want to give your students a safe space to get calm and ready to learn?

A safe and stimulating space for students of all abilities to explore sensory input and programming. Students learn and experience appropriate tools to organize, rebalance and self-regulate, allowing them to thrive in their school environment and community.

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

Web presence






September 2017
The sensory room is an innovative learning space that is fun and educational. Our students and staff absolutely love it

About the innovation

What is Sensation Station Sensory Room?

All humans are sensory beings, as this is how we explore and process information within our world.Sensory rooms are special spaceswithin the school that allowstudents of all abilities to self-regulate, rebalance and have their sensory needs met. These rooms can be found in both specialized schools and public schools, such asHanover Elementary School in Meriden, Connecticut, United States. Meriden Public Schools set up a sensory room tosupporta holistic sensory inputfor children with autism on theSTARS programme - Students Teachers Achieving Remarkable Success) as well as students of all abilities.

The Sensation Station-Sensory Room at Hanover Elementarywas designed to find a creative, appropriate way to address the various needs of the studentswithin the school community.This room is used throughout the school day for students with varying sensory, self-regulatory and behavioral needs andwas designed with the primary intent to build a space that feelsand looks different from other classrooms within the school as soon as children walk in the door. The specific design and programming allow for purposefulexploration within the room, as well asmodeling and small group instruction.Significant aspects of the room include aball circle for drumming and vestibular input, specific music, mindful breathing , yoga, and stations all with a specific sensory, self-regulatory purpose.

Theroom provides a means for all students and staff to find appropriate strategies and tools that can be utilized for self-regulation ensuring participation as active, calm learners within their school and community. It alsoprovidestactile, auditory, vestibular, proprioceptive andkinesthetic input as well as stimulatingsmell, sight and self awareness through small group instruction,mindful breathing, yoga postures and stations throughout the space.

The sensory room is integrated into the whole school. Students use the sensory room as part of their school day with classes timetabled to use the space. Upon returning to the classroom, learning is punctuated with regular, scheduled sensory breaks. This way, the benefits gained from use of the sensory room, such as improved focus and greater retention, are maximized.

Hanover Elementary School has worked with other schools to train practitioners and families across the district. While not every school may have the space for a dedicated sensory room, its creators believe its program and philosophies can be used in all schools with a little creativity. Advice is tailored to the specific needs of the school depending on their space and budget.

It can be difficult to ensure that the equipment isn’t being used inappropriately and it may require a certain level of staffing to ensure the best outcomes and the safety of the children.

Educators will also need to have an open mind, as it could take time to get the children used to this new routine and the expectations that come along with it, which are very different to the expectations of a general classroom.

While this is a sensory room designed specifically for children with autism, Hanover Elementary also has asimilar sensory room set up to meet the needs of children with ADHD oremotional andbehavioral needs, for example with punch bags and monkey bars to help release energy.

The sensory room is alsoused by the wider school community. Neurotypical children are welcome to use the room when the sensory sessions are not taking place and the school can hire it out for other uses in the evenings.

Hanover Elementary School hostsFamily Night events for the STARS students and family members. This is critical as many of thefamilies describe these eventsas the only evening they can go out as a family and truly enjoy themselves.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


The activities themselves are important, although it's the full sensory integration that makes the sensory room unique. Sensory activities are integrated throughout the child's day and having all staff members on board makes the sensory provision seamless.


Research shows that programming that takes place within the sensory space positively impacts education in the classroom and is integrated into the whole school community. It has provided a means for educating all staff and families on the needs and uses of Sensory and Mindfulness for all children within the school community.


A sensory room can be created to suit any budget.
Procedures and protocols are important to the success of the sensory room. The room is designed with purpose, so there are specific ways to use the room, space and activities.

Implementation steps

Planning for your sensory room
Locate an appropriate space within the school, seek expert advice and agree on a budget.

Seeking advice from experts will help to ensure your sensory room has maximum benefit for the students. The sensory room at Hanover Elementary was designed by Meriden Public School's Head of Occupational Therapy, Kathleen Fritz Romania,and the Lead Physical Therapist, Heather McDonnell. The district's lead behavior analyst, speech and language pathologist and special education teacher also had an input.

Find a space that iseasily accessible within the school setting. If possible, the room should be centrally located. This will help with monitoring and ensuring best practice.Look for areas that are ideal for large movements as well as “calming” areas within the space.You'll want to work closely with maintenance staff in not only securing the space but also in ensuring all aspects of the room are able to be built as planned. This should help the physical logistics to go smoothly!

Building Your "Container"
This step is very important! Changing how the room feels when students walk in is crucial. You want the room to feel special and different from other spaces within the school.

This starts with changing the colors on the walls to calming colors. Changing the flooring and ceiling to absorb the sounds within the space with carpet and light shades.

Ordering sensory equipment
Now you can order the equipment, according to your budget. You don't need to spend a lot of money to get started, just get creative!

Choose materials that fit the budget and needs of the students.This step is dependent on the size of the space and the need of your students.

Prepare the space by painting the room, installing carpet and changing the lights with shades to control the light and sound within the room - these simple changes will make a big difference to the feel of the room. Install any toys and equipment. Consider cost effective equipment that has numerous therapeautic uses - like sensory bins filled with rice and dried beans, or battle ropes and therapy balls, all of which are effective yet inexpensive.

The sensation station at Hanover Elementary incorporates equipment designed to give a variety of sensory input. Consider equipment that will stimulate different senses. This could includepunching bags, bouncy balls, battle ropes, lego walls, platform swings and body socks.

Establishing protocols, procedures and policies
This step is the most important step in the process of creating and implementing the Sensory Station.

At Hanover School, aset routine was created by the Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapistand is followed by all that utilize the space. This routine allows that students are grounded within the space, transition through the space and move out of the space in a routine, sequential, purposeful manner.The routine to follow is updated on a monthly basis.

Training staff
Staff receive weekly, small group instruction each week throughout the school year.

Physical and Occupational Therapy educate staff, families and students on specific sensory needs and protocol to be followed for each student that utilizes the space.

The success of the sensory room is dependent on staff and student education as well as programming and protocols within the space to ensure that the tools within the space are used appropriately and purposefully. Everyone should understand the purpose of the sensory room, what each equipment piece is for, how to use it to best effect and how to put it all away at the end.

Teaching the students
Structure and routine is key to making the most of the sensory room.

Students shouldfollow a set routine that is predictable and sequential each time they enter this space. They will know the routine and rely on additional cues from picture supports as well as cues from music and chime listening to complete the sequence. This structure helps students to get the most benefit out of the session and also ensures calm and positive behavior.

Students at Hanover Elementarywith special needsattend the sensory room for a half hour a day and are supported by the Occupational and Physical Therapists. The following routine is used at Hanover Elementary and adapted according to the specific needs of the children:

Children enter the room listening to relaxing music and then start the session bouncing rhythmically on gym balls to ground them into the calm space and provide sensory input.

Activities done on the ball can be tied into academic support, so if students are working on colours or numbers in the classroom activities are designed and implemented to reinforce the learning. Mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises and yoga follow, which can be adapted to the needs of the children.

In the next section of the sensory room experience children can rotate around a variety of stations that are designed to provide a whole range of sensory inputs. There is a crash pad for full body tactile stimulation, providing an alternative to, for example, hitting their head on the desk. A swing provides vestibular input and calming movements to soothe over stimulated children. Punching bag and heavy ropes to lift provide feedback to the joints and stress relief.

There is even a light wall, where children hit squares as they light up, which gives sensory feedback to joints and enhances hand eye coordination. A walking path of different shape and size cushioned items encourages balance and body awareness in space, whilst toys for throwing allow for appropriate throwing, so that a student can release aggression in a safe space, rather than throwing a chair in class.

Each session ends with a calm down, in which children lie down and take part in breathing exercises whilst listening to chime music. This signals the end of the sensory room session and this predictable end helps the students to return to class feeling relaxed and rebalanced, having received the sensory input they need.

Engaging families
Getting families on board will help them to understand how their child benefits from sensory integration.

At Hanover School, Family Nights are organized by the team, in which families within the Autism Program (STARS) are able to meet with other families andparticipate in fun, recreational activities within the school setting. It's also an opportunity forfamilies to learn how their child utilizes and benefits from the programming within the sensory space.

Maintaining the room
It is important to maintain the room on a regular basis. It may help to encourage your staff to take ownership of the space.  

This space is used all day within Hanover Elementary School. Staff understand the need and purpose of the Sensory Room, thus they take great pride in this space and collectively maintain the Sensory Room so that all of thestudents can continue to benefit.

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