Must-Have Items For Creating a Calming Sensory Space Within The Classroom

Must-Have Items For Creating a Calming Sensory Space Within The Classroom

calming techniques

The standard classroom supplies go beyond binders, pens, and notebooks for special needs educators. Having calming sensory items and spaces to decompress can mean the difference between a productive day and a day hampered by triggers and meltdowns. We would like to share what we consider to be some must-have items and considerations for any special needs education classroom.

Comfortable Seating Options

  • We all know from personal experience that standard school desks and chairs are not very comfortable. For students with special needs, this discomfort can prevent them from focusing on and completing their daily tasks. Consider having multiple options available, such as bean bag chairs, rocking chairs, scoop chairs, and bungee cord chairs, to accommodate various sensory needs.

Soft Lighting

  • Standard fluorescent lights in most classrooms provide poor task lighting and can even cause migraines and eye strain for students and teachers. For students with special needs, the physical discomfort can be even more disruptive. Installing other lighting options such as white or multi-colored LED strips, stand-up corner lamps, or flame-retardant light filters will help create a softer-lit environment.

Noise Cancelling Head Phones 

  • Some students with special needs may experience what is known as sensory avoidance and will find background noise to be distracting or may potentially trigger a meltdown. Having noise-canceling headphones on hand is an excellent option for smaller classrooms that do not have a dedicated quiet space available for students.

Fidget Toys and Sensory Bins 

  • Having a tactile outlet is key to self-regulation and maintaining focus for many special needs students throughout the day. Popular toys include fidget spinners, stress balls, fidget cubes, push bubbles, and chewy ropes. For a more immersive experience, sensory bins can be made from uncooked rice, pasta, beans, water beads, sand, or aquarium rocks.

Music and Background Noise

  • Playing music in the classroom helps get the creative juices flowing and helps students self-regulate. Some students benefit from white noise playing in the background during regular classroom instruction to help maintain focus. One of the easiest ways to incorporate music or background noise into a classroom environment is using a Bluetooth speaker.

Weighted Blankets

  • Weighted blankets are another must-have for any special needs classroom. Weighted blankets are proven to be extremely calming for children with sensory-seeking tendencies. One thing to keep in mind is to have weighted blankets of varying sizes and weights to meet the needs and preferences of all students in the classroom.

Visual Guides

  • Students with special needs often benefit from a routine and may struggle between daily transitions. Having a visual guide for different activities such as a daily classroom schedule, individually assigned tasks, and special activities such as the book fair or school picture day can help students have smoother transitions.

Having these must-have items on hand is essential for creating a calm, conducive classroom environment so that students with special needs can thrive. Of course, this is simply a guide as there are many different creative ways to make any classroom more comfortable and inclusive for all students. As a special needs educator, what would you add to the list?    

lee vodfsky

Harbor School a private special education school in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Our mission at Harbor School is to help all of our special needs students with learning, social, language, behavioral, and other disabilities. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student reach their full potential.

We would be more than happy to discuss your child's specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.544.9394, or request a tour at Harbor School in Eatontown, NJ. We are located just minutes off of the Garden State Parkway at exit 105 and conveniently located off of Route 35 and Route 36 in Monmouth County, NJ.

Lee Vodofsky
Principal-Harbor School, Eatontown, NJ