Grant helps students with special needs

Published 4:21 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/Senior Staff Writer

The Clanton Elementary School sensory room will get some needed updates thanks to a Partners Enhancing Education in Chilton County grant for $1,500 from the Chilton Education Foundation.

Clanton special education teachers Abby Loftis, Alissa Helfinstine, Aly Scarbough and Christin Polk will use the grant to purchase needed supplies.

“Our vision is to set this up more to meet the needs of our kids with special needs, like autism or sensory processing problems, just to make it more user friendly where they can come in and get their sensory needs met,” Loftis said.

The room has some items for students when they need to use up some energy or need a mental break. Teachers want to add an area specifically for students who need a quiet place to calm down from sensory overload, such as a noisy lunchroom.

Lofits said the plan is for this area to be slightly dark, with fiber optic lights, glow in the dark items, body sock (breathable materia that provides resistance), bean bags and soft music.

Loftis said this was her first time applying for a PEECh grant.

“We were very excited and grateful that we were awarded the PEECh Grant and have the opportunity to provide our students with Autism these wonderful updates to our sensory room,” Helfinstine said.

By combining some money from fundraising with a portion of the PEECh grant, the teachers hope to purchase a base for a crow’s nest-style swing that the school has.

“That was one of the things that the kids really liked, that swing movement,” Loftis said.

A student is typically in the sensory room for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Teachers monitor children to ensure the room is not being used simply as a time to avoid schoolwork.

Loftis said most children with autism or ADHD in kindergarten through second grade need “a sensory break” during the school day.

Polk said therapy balls will also be purchased to use in the classroom.