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Sensory space offers oasis within centre

Goodstart centres

A sensory area complete with specialised toys, soft lighting and little nooks for children to explore has been developed at Goodstart Early Learning’s Onkaparinga Rise centre.

With the help of Goodstart Early Learning social inclusion coordinator Sonia Harris, senior speech pathologist Tiffany Goss, and Kelly Kroeger, occupational therapist, the centre has developed a sensory area, filled with cushions, soft lighting and even mini scooters.

Designed and created about 12 months ago, the space has been a huge success, with the centre director Sandy Stewart saying the turnaround in some of the children had been amazing.

“We take small groups of children and provide sensory experiences planned for the needs of the group. This ensures that all our children are included in learning experiences that suit their sensory needs,” Ms Stewart said.

“Since it’s been introduced we’ve noticed an overwhelming change in the behaviour of many of the children – some who need to get away from noise, some who need to scoot around and enjoy the feeling of movement, and some who need to dim the lights.”

The room, which is the first of its kind at Goodstart Early Learning, is based on the organisation’s early learning framework to create an inclusive environment complete with “vibrant and flexible spaces that are responsive to the interests and abilities of each child.”

Recent research shows up to one in six children may have sensory symptoms that may be significant enough to affect aspects of everyday life functions. Funding was partly sourced from the ECHO program. 

Goodstart’s social inclusion coordinator in SA, Sonia Harris, said the centre’s room was used every day by all children attending the centre in many different ways, depending on the needs of the children.

“The centre identified that there were children at the centre who had additional needs,” Ms Harris said. 

“And so we looked at what equipment they needed that was practical and served a real purpose. We got tactile rugs specially made and black out curtains to provide a little dark nook in a corner. The children can explore their senses in a space that is specifically designed.”

An occupational therapist worked with the team to guide them through setting up the room, and how to use the equipment. The therapist now works closely with the centre to help the educators understand more about senses.

“The room also includes balancing equipment such as stepping stones, fitballs and low-to-the-ground scooters, supporting children who have a strong need to be moving and feeling their bodies moving in space and time,” Ms Harris said.

This helps some children with their concentration skills and can restore a sense of calm.

“The aim is to provide a sensory experience that meets the individual needs of the children in a fun and flexible learning space.”

  • Organise physical indoor and outdoor areas for your children so they have flexible spaces that include quiet, active, wet and dry areas that help to calm or alert children in their play.
  • Ensure children have access to materials they can shape and adapt, such as play dough.
  • Use lighting and soft furnishings such as cushions and blankets to create separate spaces.
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