Teachwire Logo

How SEN Children Are Benefiting From A New Sensory Room At Kiddi Caru Caldecotte

Both calming and stimulating, this space to unwind is helping practitioners to better support those with special educational needs

  • How SEN Children Are Benefiting From A New Sensory Room At Kiddi Caru Caldecotte

That growing minds benefit from sensory stimulation is no secret – from their earliest days babies see, hear, smell, taste and feel the world around them, and their experiences allow them to start to make sense of the world.

By offering them a varied range of sensory experiences we can support their development, and this holds true as infants grow into toddlers and then preschoolers.

There are countless ways to introduce sensory elements into children’s learning – from heading out into nature to getting creative indoors with messy play – but as Sarah Ockwell-Smith outlined in her article in TEY issue 7.1, there’s much to be said for creating a dedicated multisensory area.

Whether it’s a space in a corner of a classroom or a dedicated sensory room, such an area can be a calming place in which to unwind, away from the bustle of a busy setting, as well as one in which to engage children’s senses. And it can be an invaluable resource for meeting the needs of children with SEND too.

“You can see the effect it has had on our children with special educational needs,” Lucy Clarke, manager of Kiddi Caru Caldecotte, says of her nursery’s purpose-built sensory room. It’s a relatively new addition to the 89-place setting, having been installed by specialists Rompa in December 2016, and it represented a serious investment – in the region of £10,000. While all children at the nursery are benefiting from its presence, meeting the needs of children with SEND played a big part in the decision to spend the money.

Creating calm

Kiddi Caru Caldecotte’s sensory room benefits from a wide range of features designed to offer children a relaxing and engaging experience. “It’s a really nice calming area,” Lucy tells us. “There are bubble tubes and fibre optic lighting. We have something called a Talking Cube – amongst other things, when you throw this cube and it lands on a particular colour, all the lights in the room change to that colour. There’s an interactive board – it might, for example, come up with a red light and if children press the red button in response, it rewards them with sound.”

Lucy had her heart set on one feature in particular, the room’s rod wall, which she had first come across during a family holiday to Italy. “It’s an illuminated wall with coloured pegs,” she explains. “When the children put the pegs in, they glow. They really focus on it. Our installer was able to source it for us from Canada.”

Practitioners using the room are able to control how bright the lights are, and select different types of music, allowing them to easily create different atmospheres to suit children’s needs.

Alongside the technology, soft matting lines the walls and floor, in neutral colours chosen to create a calming environment: “A lot of sensory rooms go with bright blue or bright red furnishings,” Lucy says, “but we wanted to avoid overstimulating the children.”

As you would expect with an investment of this size, Kiddi Caru considered various options before making a final decision on both the sensory room’s features and an installer. “We shopped around a bit so we could compare quotes, and looked at the things the different companies offered,” Lucy says. Despite the range of resources included in the final design, installation took just two days.

Positive impact

“At the moment we have three children diagnosed with a special educational need at the setting, specifically autism; but then we also have other children who may be diagnosed at some point in the future,” Lucy tells us. For these children, the nursery’s sensory room is making a real difference – though how it is used varies considerably, depending on the needs of the individual.

“One of the children with SEND likes to go into the sensory room as soon as he comes in in the afternoon,” Lucy tells us. “You can see the room as you come through the front door, so his one-to-one support worker will often meet his parents there to start his day. Sometimes his parents will come in a little bit early, perhaps if he’s been having a difficult time at home. It helps to calm him down and chills him out.

“Then we have another child who is sensitive to loud noise. It affects her behaviour, so if something triggers her in the classroom, she’ll come down. Alternatively, if the staff want to do something focused that involves noise with the other children, she has the option of using her ear defenders and joining in, or choosing to come down to the sensory room in advance.”

It may still be early days but, Lucy is certain, having this space available on demand has already had a noticeable impact on children with SEND at the nursery – “particularly the little boy I’ve mentioned,” she notes. “Because he has one-to-one support, taking him to the sensory room doesn’t affect the ratios, so he can use it whenever he likes. His parents have noticed a difference at home since it was installed, the benefit it has had for him, how much he’s improved.”

When it’s put in these terms, it’s clear that while the initial outlay for a sensory room may be steep, it’s money well spent.

Talking points

How often is the sensory room used?
“It gets a lot of use. At least one group of children without special educational needs uses the room every day – we like to give all the children equal opportunities. It’s big enough for five over-twos and four under-twos. But with children with SEND needs, having, say, five three-year-olds in there would be too much for them, so they go in either on their own or with one or two others.”

Could you set up a similar space on a smaller budget?
“You can buy things like fibre optics and lamps and glow sticks, which can help to create a similar atmosphere, fairly cheaply. But, if you have the space available, I think that having a dedicated room is more beneficial than that – for children with SEND and the nursery as a whole.”

Would you like to add extra resources to the room?
“We don’t have any plans to improve upon it at the moment; it’s working really well and it’s still fairly new. Of course, if we ever have a child with a particular need, we have the option to invest in different resources, and over time we may identify things we’d like to change.”

For more information about Kiddi Caru, visit kiddicaru.com.

Sign up here for your free Brilliant Teacher Box Set

Make sure your menus are healthy, tasty and offer great value for money with expert guidance from nutritionist Nigel Denby.

Find out more here >