With the addition of the new sensory room at John S. Jones Elementary School in Rainbow City, it’s not unusual to hear peals of joy — and the excitement isn’t coming only from students.
The school’s six special-education teachers are just as thrilled about the 300-square-foot addition, said longtime Principal Tanya Clark, who has been at John Jones Elementary for several years.
Members of the Eastern Division Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) installed equipment for the new sensory space on Jan. 17-18. The room is designed to meet the needs of the school’s 80 students with autism and sensory issues.
“We are so excited, because we could have never afforded this on our own,” Clark said. “We have a large special needs population to begin with.”
“The sensory room will be a place for them to go in and explore and engage,” she said. “The sensory items in there will hopefully give students that are distressed or over-stimulated a place to calm down, to be able to come in and sit in the swings or walk on the floor tiles, listen to the sounds and see the lights.”
Eastern APSO President Varnestra Jones, with president-elect Casandra Maudsley, brought the sensory room to life. Maudsley, who researched items for sensory rooms to create the space, said she now knows how to establish a sensory room on a budget. Jones said the chapter invested about $1,500 in the equipment, which members earned through many fund-raising projects.
Eastern APSO supplied two ceiling-to-floor hanging swings, gel floor tiles that “move” with children’s steps, bean bag chairs, a calming light projector, a bubble lamp with colorful fish that “swim” in the water, a swing for two children, earphones, loads of fidget toys to keep little hands busy and five weighted blankets to calm and comfort kids.
Maudsley recruited Brad Wilson of Pier One Piledriving to install the swings. Bryan Holderfield painted the walls a pale, calming shade of blue to match other school walls, compliments of Sherwin-Williams.
Jones, who served as Eastern APSO president in 2018, was pleased to see the sensory room come together.
“We knew this is something we definitely wanted to do,” said Jones, training coordinator – Accounting, Eastern Division Office. “Everything has come together so beautifully. We are so thankful to all the people who pitched in their time and energy and donated things to this project. I can’t wait to see pictures of the kids interacting in the room, because I know it’s going to be an awesome time.”