Calming Sensory Room Ideas for Children with Autism

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a child's hands on a green sensory massage mat for autism - Education alternatives

Autism sensory rooms provide a safe space for children to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. Learn how we use them at Education Alternatives and get inspired to create your own sensory space! 

If your child has autism, you likely know that sensory information affects them differently. 

They may be more sensitive to sounds, feelings, or tastes than other children. Things like bright lights or background noises can be overwhelming and lead to negative reactions.

That’s where autism sensory rooms can help. They create a calming environment that allows children to process their emotions when the outside world feels overwhelming. 

If you want to learn more about autism sensory rooms or discover calming sensory room ideas for autism, you’re in the right place!

For over 20 years, Education Alternatives in Ohio has been helping students with autism and other developmental challenges succeed. Through innovative services like the Coral Autism Program or our therapeutic Day Treatment Program, we offer a supportive learning environment tailored to meet our students’ unique needs. 

We have autism sensory rooms at each of our eight locations in greater Northeast Ohio. These rooms are specifically designed to help our autistic students work through the emotional challenges they face outside of school. 
Keep reading to learn more about autism sensory rooms, their benefits for your child, and how we use them at EA Schools!

What is an autism sensory room?

Autism sensory rooms are a safe space for children to regulate and process their emotions. 

When we say “sensory,” we mean a space that uses different tools to engage the physical senses of sight, sound or hearing, and touch. These rooms are specifically designed to calm and soothe children. 

What is the purpose of a sensory room?

Many children with autism or special needs face behavioral challenges both in and outside of school. 

However, many people don’t realize that these behaviors are often a direct result of sensory processing issues. 

As we mentioned earlier, sensory information relates to the five physical senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. 

Every second of every day, our brains receive, organize, and respond to sensory data from our environments and bodies without us even noticing. 

Once this information is processed, we can behave and respond appropriately to whatever is happening in the world around us. 

As children grow, they learn to organize their senses. This helps them better control their responses and emotions. However, children with autism or other developmental disorders often face sensory processing issues that can make everyday situations more challenging. 

When children have trouble processing sensory information, they can experience sensory overload. This happens when certain sensory input, like strong fluorescent lighting, a crowded space, or a sudden loud noise, overwhelms their ability to cope with these feelings in a healthy way. 

These negative feelings might show up as aggression or a tantrum if there isn’t another way for them to be released. In this situation, autism sensory rooms can be powerful tools. 

The purpose of an autism sensory room is to create a calming environment that helps children release, or even redirect, these overwhelming emotions and manage sensory overload. 

Sensory rooms provide tools like soft lighting, soothing sounds, and various textures that can significantly lower a child’s anxiety and stress.

How we use sensory rooms at EA 

At Education Alternatives, we use sensory rooms daily to support our students’ unique needs and help them grow socially and emotionally.

For example, autism sensory rooms are great for students who are feeling overstimulated during the school day. Students can escape to a sensory room where they are safe to regulate their emotions as needed. 

While sensory rooms are part of several EA programs, they’re used most frequently in our Coral Autism Program and therapeutic Day Treatment Program. We use them to teach our students coping mechanisms and new behavior patterns. 

That’s why our team of special education teachers and mental health experts uses sensory rooms to role-play situations that might be triggering for students.

Experiencing sensory overload in a safe place helps students learn ways to cope and handle similar situations outside school.

What are the benefits of a sensory room? 

Autism sensory rooms have been transformative for our students who face behavioral and emotional challenges. 

These spaces help our students:

  • Manage stress and anxiety when they are feeling overwhelmed 
  • Improve their function in daily activities by learning to understand and process sensory information 
  • Become more independent through free play with the activities they choose 
  • Enhance their focus and attention by engaging in sensory activities

Calming sensory room ideas for students with autism 

If you want to create your own sensory space, here are some things to remember. 

First, there is no rule book when it comes to creating an autism sensory room or space. Each element of your space can be completely customized to your child’s preferences and needs. 

Think about the colors your child likes. 

Maybe there’s a particular genre of music that soothes them. 

If they are fascinated by outer space, you could add star projections on the ceiling. 

Secondly, your sensory space doesn’t have to be a whole “room!” It can be a corner or even a closet. 

Your child can still benefit from having an assigned space to relax and manage their emotions, even if you don’t have an entire room to dedicate to it.

Finally, you don’t need to get every item or gadget you come across during an internet search. Focus on your child’s needs and what could benefit them the most. 

If you need some inspiration, here are some of our favorite things to include in a sensory room at our school: 

  • Comfy beanbag chairs
  • Building blocks for tactile learning 
  • Bubble tubes for visual stimulation 
  • Activity mats 
  • Art supplies 

Education Alternatives in Ohio  

At Education Alternatives, we give our students the tools they need to succeed in school and life. We are an alternative school committed to giving K-12 Ohio students the education they deserve.

That’s why we offer a wide variety of special education programs designed for students with different learning needs or challenges. 

Whether you’re looking for a specialized autism school program or a therapeutic day treatment program that combines education and therapy, our team is here to help! 

Think Education Alternatives could be the right fit for your child?

Contact us! Our team will happily answer any questions you have about our programs.

Contact us