By Marieange Burnett, MA
The CONTRA COSTA CHILD CARE COUNCIL offers support to parents and child care professional that have children requiring special accommodations in child care settings. The Inclusion Project provides free assistance to support children birth through age 5 in licensed child care settings who are diagnosed with developmental delays or exhibiting developmental concerns. Our Inclusion Facilitators work with early childhood educators to design individualized adaptations and strategies to allow the childcare site to effectively support children with special needs. The project offers hands on demonstration of evidence based practices, observe and screen developmental areas such as communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and social emotional development and convey recommendations on reasonable accommodations.
Three months ago, a team of Inclusion Specialists visited Special Haven; a Non-Profit group which provides a multi-sensory environment for children and adults with Special Needs in the local community of Antioch and the surrounding towns. The mesmerizing room, which was structured to provide controlled sensory input and positive interactions, definitely met the sensory needs of the Child Care Council Inclusion Team whom were completely relaxed when leaving. I regard Special Haven as a temporary paradise and advise individuals like me who are overly anxious, have overactive thoughts and cannot seem to relax without yoga or hot baths to use Special Haven
The facility is child-friendly, stimulating and physically engaging; for example, colors can be activated to change by using a special pad. The lights in the room are gentle to the eyes and body, the vibration from the tubes and motion of the water bed is physically calming resulting in a person feeling very safe. The team especially enjoyed their time in the ball pit and operated the surrounding lights with a pressure pad to match their desired level of input. Special Haven provides various sensorial experiences through sound, smell, touch, and visual effects. Children can roam the setting independently and easily access the materials. People with different physical and mental abilities can manipulate the environment as needed; individuals can change or influence the environment as they see fit. Special Haven welcomes individuals with varied special needs; for example, people with Autism Spectrum Disorders, intellectual disabilities, hyper activity, dementia, trauma, and many other special needs. There are just a few sensory rooms like this in California.
The Multi-Sensory room was originally developed by two Dutch Psychologists and has been widely adopted in England. One of the Special Haven founders expressed that her determination to create and safeguard the sensory room stems from her passion for children’s happiness, of being able to provide children a space to be free of anxiety and first and foremost, for children to feel safe. If you are interested in creating a Sensory-Friendly space in your setting, contact Ange Burnet at 925-676-5442 ext. 3113 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Special Haven, visit www.specialhaven.org