School’s sensory space calms and restores

The new sensory calming room at Mountain View High School provides a safe space for students to destress and refocus.

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The new sensory calming room at Mountain View High School provides a safe space for students to destress and refocus.

For more than a year, special education teacher Danielle Jenkins and her colleagues at Mountain View High in Lawrenceville talked and daydreamed about a space where all students could take a break from the sensory overload the school environment often creates.

“School is very stressful, even for a lot of general education kids who have been out of the building for a year and a half,” said Jenkins, now in her seventh year at Mountain View. “A lot of them have had re-entry anxiety. We wanted a safe space where kids with and without disabilities could go when they feel nervous, stressed or worried.”

Along with a physical location to calm those anxieties, Jenkins wanted ways to help students cope.

“We’re very big on saying, ‘You have those emotions, now how do you work them’?“ she said. “That’s what we can help with.”

Last spring, Jenkins and her colleagues applied for a grant through the Georgia United Credit Union Foundation, and the results were stellar: Out of more than 250 applications, Meadow View became the first high school the foundation selected for a full grant of $15,000 to design and establish a sensory calming room.

Over the summer, the staff put together a wish list, and volunteers from the credit union’s School Crashers program organized teams to turn a conference room into a calming space. The transformed area now features a sensory cocoon dubbed “the jelly fish” with fiber optic lights, a bubble tube in the middle, mirrors and comfortable seating.

Outside the cocoon are fidget toys, a coloring wall, yoga mats and pulse meters to monitor heart rates. A vibroacoustic chair is fitted with fiber optic lights and links to Bluetooth that makes the seat vibrate to the music being played. “It’s almost like a massage,” said Jenkins.

While the room was designed with special education students in mind, and is particularly helpful for those with autism, Jenkins envisions it as a place the entire school can benefit from.

“We’re starting a club so kids can use it before or after school,” she said. “We’d like it to be open to anyone. We’ve had kids in our building who had panic attacks in the bathroom because they didn’t know where to go. This room is like a classroom for us to teach kids to turn off the craziness of the world.”

Jenkins is also planning workshops to teach calming strategies such as deep breathing and yoga.

“Our goal is to teach kids how to handle their mental health rather than getting so stressed they just want to quit,” she said. “There are healthy ways to handle feeling overwhelmed.”

Information about Mountain View High is online at

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