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Sensory Rooms give Students a Break - from The Messenger

March 20, 2019

There’s a new space at Fort Dodge Middle School for students who need to take a short break from learning.

That space is called a sensory room, according to Katie Moser, FDMS at risk instructor.

Moser works with students who need extra support.

She said students benefit from a sensory room where they can learn coping skills.

In the sensory room, things like modeling clay, tactile sensory toys, and a dry erase board table, can be found.

She said the goal is to provide students an outlet, if needed.

“We use this as a de-escalation space,” Moser said.

Tents, yoga mats, a weighted blanket, and a curtain are other items in the sensory room.

Mackenzie Alstott, fifth-grade transition coordinator, said some items get used more than others.

“Our tent gets used multiple times a day,” Alstott said.

student with weighted blanket on shoulders

A bubble lamp that makes a soothing sound is another accessory.

“We notice when it’s not on,” Alstott said. “It makes just enough noise.”

Alstott focuses on the emotional, social side of learning, she said.

Between 20 and 25 students use the space per day. Most are fifth-and-sixth graders, Alstott said.

The time they spend in the room varies.

“Our standard is about 10 minutes,” she said. “The longest we keep them is about 30 minutes.”

Moser added, “We don’t want to keep them from learning any longer than they need to be.”

When students think they can benefit from the space they submit a request to their teacher.

“Any student can use the space no matter what their needs are,” Moser said. “Students can ask teachers for a break or a form they can fill out to Ms. Alstott.”

Students with a specific need are given a red card that serves as a pass.

“We have red break cards for students who have a special need,” Moser said. “A recognized, consistent need. The red card is a pass to get here and back.”

Moser said she will let students check out stress balls or other fidget toys if it will help them in their regular classroom.

“We will check those out if a student wants to take it with them,” Moser said. “They can stay in their room, learn in their room, and have their needs met. But with that said there are some kids who just need a break.”

Cooper Elementary School also has a sensory room.

The rooms and the equipment inside them were made possible by gifts from the Fort Dodge Community Schools Foundation.

The Fort Dodge Middle School was granted $1,700 for their room in the fall of 2018. Cooper Elementary School was granted $2,500 in the spring of 2018.

“Board members feel that it’s important to support social and emotional learning in our schools,”said Foundation Board President Jennifer Pederson. “Sensory rooms can help our students re-focus and get back to the classroom. We are grateful for the donors who help to make this positive impact possible.”

The Fort Dodge Community Schools annual fundraiser, “Go Big, Go Dodgers” is April 5 at Fort Frenzy.

To donate or buy tickets contact Director Molly Nelson at 574-5327 or visit www.fdcsfoundation.org.

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