Studying Up on Back-to-School Tips Part II

Some schools aren’t equipped with a sensory room.  My son Joey’s elementary school was one of them.  A sensory diet  had been determined for Joey at his needs assessment appointment* when he first entered into the school system, but it only addressed Joey’s need to take breaks during the day to regroup, it didn’t determine how that should be done—and with no sensory room to retrieve to, I wasn’t sure how to address it.  What I did know was that with Joey’s sensory issues: certain odors, loud noises, rough clothing, screaming children; separately or all together, could set him reeling and searching for an escape.

*Look for my next post where I discuss the importance of a thorough needs assessmentthe list behind the back-to-school list.

After meeting with his teacher and seeing the size of the classroom, I knew I needed to work collaboratively with her to ensure Joey’s needs were being met.  Joey was entering an integrated preschool with six normally functioning children, and six physically, emotionally and/or mentally challenged children. Clearly, the teacher; her two aides; and the speech, occupational, and physical therapists; would be busy at all times attending to Joey and the others—I knew I needed to find a simple, yet effective solution for Joey.

At home, I learned early on, large empty cardboard boxes provided the perfect escape for Joey from any chaos that came along.  They proved especially useful at holidays and gatherings where foods, guests, lights, and sounds would invade his world.  Hence, our home was equipped at all times with one or two empty refrigerator boxes.  However, I decided, not only would the refrigerator boxes be too large for Joey’s classroom, they would not easy to put up and take down as they lacked durability.

Then one day I saw a camping commercial advertising a pop-up tent.  I remembered I had seen smaller versions of the tent at Toys-R-US.  That day, I drove to the closest Toys-R-Us and picked one out that could be put up and taken down with one hand; plus it had the abc’s on it—perfect for a classroom! I brought it into the teacher two days before school and began to demonstrate it.  The staff loved it and asked if they could allow the other children to use it, which I was more than willing to agree to. I also purchased an identical one for home to help Joey get accustom to using it as an escape at home.

The pop-up tent was such a hit that other classrooms began implementing them as special needs children moved to the higher grades. I even ended up purchasing a second tent for Joey’s classroom to cover those times when more than one child needed a break at the same time.

I think it is extremely important for parents to realize that when you child enters school, you need to work as a team with your child’s teachers and staff to ensure your child has a safe, secure and successful school year. I didn’t leave it up to the teacher to find a solution, nor did I find fault with the school for not providing a sensory room, instead I focused on the best solution to help meet Joey’s needs within the classroom.


This is part two of the “Studying Up on Back-to-School Tips” series, read part one of the series here.

Please continue to send your back to school tips that have worked for your family by commenting below, or Tweeting @alleviateautism.

Click here, for more information about the “pop up tent” in this entry.

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