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Multi-Sensory Environments to fit YOUR needs!

School Specialty has a "sensory" solution for Everyone and Every budget.


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Multisensory Environments (MSE)

A Multi-Sensory Environment & Equipment is a vital and effective part in the treatment of sensory disorders. It is especially effective with children on the spectrum. Without appropriate stimulation, children may resort to self-destructive behaviors and often repetitive behavior. Our multi-sensory environments (MSE) offer an intervention that is designed to reduce or avoid these traits.
MSE's should be a safe and non-threatening space that utilizes sound, light, movement, vibration or other sensory input. MSE's can be used for a variety of purposes including:

  • for relaxation
  • for calming and reorganizing
  • for building cognitive cause/effect skills
  • for promoting visual and auditory perception skills
  • to stimulate language/communication skills and other educational goals
  • as part of a memory care unit for geriatrics

School Specialty & Abilitations has partnered with Experia to bring you a full line of Multi-Sensory equipment. MSE's provide a solution that offers students with high level disabilities the opportunity to control, manipulate, intensify or reduce stimulation within a safe environment.

We've also organized some sensory solutions and ideas below for quick implementation into your classroom:

Oral Motor

shop oral motorThe term oral-motor refers to the use and function of the muscles of the face (lips, tongue, and jaw). Oral motor therapy works on the oral skills necessary for proper speech and feeding development. These skills include: awareness, strength, coordination, movement, and endurance of the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw.

No biting! No gum chewing! Keep your mouth closed!
These are all familiar terms. Now, we are not suggesting that we raise a generation of children without any social graces, but the fact is that oral motor tendencies are normal, necessary and soothing. The question is where and when do we encourage them. A good Oral Motor program will not only incorporate good oral motor tools, but it will also include education and behavioral modification. Oral motor patterns will vary in degree and severity depending on the individual, and therefore, a therapist/teacher/parent will want to observe closely. We encourage good oral motor hygiene along with a therapist consultation and a few of our terrific tools! The lack of a good program might lead to some chewed off sleeves and fingernails. So get ready, get set, bite, chew, blow, suck and swallow!

Speaking is a Sensory AND Motor Experience!
Before even beginning speech sounds, be sure the kids have sensory input to their faces and all the parts of their mouths. Children who use vibration in their mouths make progress more quickly with articulation than kids who don't have the opportunity to "wake-up" their mouths before speech time. Who knew playing with a Jiggler or Z-vibe could make such a dramatic difference, and be fun?! Although you'll create your own ideas, we'll start your list with these:

Brush teeth before speech
Play silly "squeeze-face" games
Have kids "kiss" their faces with Finger Cots
"Count all of your teeth" with Finger Cots
Move an Oral Probe from one cheek to hands!
Blow "raspberries" with your lips
Try to hold your tongue with your fingers
Make "popping" and "clucking" noises
Show us your own mouth trick!

A Chewy is Better Than a Thumb!
The mouth is a primary calmer and organizer. If your child is sucking or chewing their thumb or fingers, there are numerous problems that can occur, given time. If your child is dealing with processing issues, you already understand the significant stress your child is under. Strong sucking or chewing can cause orthopedic changes to developing finger bones and joints. Sucking fingers and thumbs can cause malocclusions in secondary teeth. The hands harbor viral and bacterial germs that transmit infections. Chewing a chewy strengthens oral musculature used for speech and eating. Fingers in the mouth do NOT strengthen mouth muscles, and will always be present, and tempting. A chewy knows when it is time to disappear.

Who Needs A Chewy?
Chewys are most frequently used in two situations:
Individuals who use chewing to calm or refocus
Individuals with speech or eating-related issues who need to make muscles stronger

How Do You Know Which Chewy to Select?
The most important thing to remember is to pick a chewy the individual will most likely USE...each person's sensory system has preferences related to texture, pliability and shape. Also, choose a chewy that reaches to muscles in the back of the mouth. Always choose a chewy that is safe for your child. Some people like to keep a chewy with them at all times. Because of this tendency you want to choose a holder that is safe for the child. Be sure cords, necklaces or holders do not present a strangulation risk for the individual. Chewys should be used with adult supervision. If you are choosing a chewy for self-regulation or strengthening, the easier the access to the chewy, the more frequently it will be used.




shop vibrotactileWe have long witnessed the effects of touch. Vibration is a deeper form of touch that can be used to alert or calm depending on the individual and the type of vibration. For many individuals a vibrating toy can awaken them and provide a more engaged response. For others, relaxing on a vibrating surface can calm and soothe them. We offer many choices for your vibration needs. Vibration has become ever so popular and well known because of its therapeutic effects. Its gentle sensory input provides calming, regulating and healing effects.

Vibration through touch is known as "vibrotactile effect," which awakens the senses while calming the spirit.

Vibroacoustic Therapy: Induces relaxation, calms restless behavior, develops sensory awareness, relieves stress and manages pain through distraction.



Touch & Pressure

shop touch and pressureDeep touch pressure refers to a form of tactile sensory input which is often provided by firm holding, firm stroking, cuddling, hugging, and squeezing. Deep touch pressure acts as a calming or focusing agent benefits individuals suffering from chronic stress or individuals with high levels of anxiety. Deep touch pressure improves their ability to cope with stress and anxieties, giving them more control over their lives and behavior.

Touch Texture Tactile
Why the emphasis on touch? Before we can elicit functional motor activities such as writing, stepping (walking), using scissors, etc., our bodies must understand and tolerate touch. The responses we witness in utero and early months often display an aversion to touch (toes and fingers will curl up in response to firm pressure); but these responses must mature before normal reactions can occur. For children with special needs the "normal" patterns are often delayed. As therapists, we must provide as much "touch" experience as possible in order to normalize responses.

Ball Pits, Well Known for their Therapeutic Effects...?
Ball pits are designed to assist you in creating a multi-sensory environment. They have been awakening persons who are developmentally delayed, neurologically involved or living with birth disorders such as autism. They are also known to have the opposite effect on those who require relaxation. Inside a ball pit thousands of balls create a rainbow sea of fun, enticing people of all ages into the therapy environment and acting as sensory stimuli (visual, auditory, tactile).

Weigh Me Down Or Hold Me Tight!
The question is...Does my child need weight or pressure input? The answer depends. We all respond differently to touch and pressure. Some of us like strong hugs, others don't. Sleeping under layers of blankets is appealing to one child, while another may want no covers at all. Children along the autism spectrum disorder, those with ADHD, sensory processing disorders or other neurological challenges often respond well to either weight or pressure. These "heavy work" or deep pressure inputs help regulate the proprioceptive sensory system which in turn helps children develop improved body awareness. When additional weight or pressure is applied to the body, it may help the sensory system calm down and organize so that the child can then attend better to tasks and/or maintain more appropriate behaviors and avoid meltdowns. Some children may need the pressure applied for longer steady intervals (a pressure vest) while others respond to interval deep pressure input (weighted vest) with on and off wearing periods. Every child's sensory system is unique so be sure to collaborate with your child's occupational or physical therapist to help find that just right combination to "weigh me down or hold me tight!"



Weighted Wear

The "Load Down" On Weights
Weights have traditionally been used for rehabilitation and strengthening. When working with children who have sensory challenges, weight becomes a powerful tool for providing heavy-work input to the muscles and joints. A weighted vest, for example, provides additional sensory input which may help a child feel more calm and organized and improve his awareness of body in space. Many children respond to this type of heavy-work input and we offer a variety of products in this section, from wrist weights to medicine balls to weighted lap pads and blankets. But not all children can work with weights. For example, weights are not appropriate for children with muscular dystrophy, increased tone or where a joint might be compromised. Ask your physical or occupational therapist for more advice and learn how your child may feel better when "weighted down."

Why Weighted Balls?
Weighted balls are ideal for providing deep proprioceptive input. Not sure? Just try one. A weighted ball helps awaken the nervous system and regulate processing. Weighted balls can be used for a variety of therapeutic activities.

Core For Kids
The body's core consists of several muscle groups that when in their proper length and at optimal "tone" provide a steady support from which all other movements are initiated. Although we often think of the abdominals and back extensors when we think of our core, there are other 2-joint muscle groups (hamstrings, quadriceps) that heavily affect the stability of our core (trunk). Many of these two joint muscle groups directly affect the position of the pelvis and thus the position of the rest of the spine. As therapists, we have to encourage activities that will stimulate core stability during both static and dynamic activities. This is especially crucial when working with children who have special needs, as their bodily sense is already compromised. This becomes especially challenging in children who are "unaware" or have tonal issues.



Auditory Processing

shop auditory processingWhat Is CAPD?
CAPD stands for Central Auditory Processing Disorder. Many people now refer to it as APD. When an educator or professional is concerned about APD in a child, they are concerned about whether a child can actually PROCESS what is heard. Auditory processing is a crucial aspect of integration, combining sensory input, language, memory, attention and timing to draw conclusions from information that has been heard. Since the auditory mechanism is located so close to the movement center of the brain, it becomes clearer that learning is not all in your head. The basic sensory systems, especially movement, play a key role in learning, according to the latest in brain-based research. There are several preventive measures you can take with APD children: allow children additional time to process what has been said; talk slowly and rhythmically and ask the child if talking like this helps; obtain advice from your educators and professionals.

What? Huh? Some Classroom Symptoms of APD Include:
Difficulty with language such as vocabulary development or syllable sequence
Difficulty with reading, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary
Difficulty following conversations
Difficulty paying attention and remembering oral instructions
Poor listening skills
Needing more time to comprehend/process information
Easily distracted
Reading, spelling or language difficulties

Why Use an Auditory Organizer?
You can have a profound effect on how daily tasks are performed by using auditory input as a tool. By modifying the environment, the "just right" amount of sensory input can increase an individual's ability to successfully participate in an activity. Listening is powerful! It affects the state of the whole body. Whether you choose soothing sounds of flowing water, nature, a methodical ticking sound, instrumental selections specific to concentration, relaxation, or energizing music-the effects are dramatic! Remember, each person's system is unique. Use observation to make sure your selection is a match.

The "Buzz" Behind the Ears!
Hearing is conducted by a complex process starting in our inner ear where it detects vibration and converts it into nerve impulses that are processed in the brain. All of us use different senses, such as vision and touch, to help us learn. Those who take in information best through hearing are called auditory learners. Auditory learners remember by listening, especially with music. Other characteristics of auditory learners may include remembering names, but not faces; the need to talk while writing; and the eyes moving down and right when listening to others. Written information for auditory learners may have little meaning until it has been read out loud, and they may find games and pictures annoying and distracting. Some children are overly sensitive to sounds. This is referred to as auditory sensitivity or auditory defensiveness. Children with auditory sensitivity may have difficulty tuning out background noises, such as papers shuffling, fluorescent lights buzzing or an air conditioner unit running. They may over react to sounds such as a book dropped on the floor or a routine fire drill with a "flight or fight" response. That is, the body perceives it is in imminent danger and so activates increased sweating, increased heart rate, pupil dilation and the need to run and hide and/or confront the perceived "attacker" even though there may not be any actual threat. Children with auditory defensiveness may respond to, and be calmed with, deep pressure input to the body or noise-protection headphones. Talk to your child's speech therapist, audiologist or occupational therapist for more tips on the auditory system, and hear your way to better understanding of this important sense.



Calmers & Organizers

calmers and organizersImprove Concentration and Focus With a Relaxation Station or Concentration Station
Create a Relaxation or Concentration Station in your classroom, clinic or home today. It's a challenge for anyone to focus in an exciting learning environment. It's an even bigger challenge if the child's body processes sensory information inefficiently. If a body cannot filter out irrelevant stimuli, a sensory "traffic jam" won't allow the child to participate and be productive in various settings. You can minimize sensory overload with the Concentration Stations or Relaxation Stations on this page. Each provides an "organized" setting for peaceful comfort. Here are three of the most common ways these wonderfully encouraging spaces are used:

  1. As a means to calm children so they can re-emerge when ready to come back to the activity.
  2. As a peaceful and encouraging environment for completing tasks.
  3. As an ideal, closed environment for teachers and therapists to work with children without interruption.


The Fidget is a Focus Tool
We already know fidgets help de-stress, improve concentration, and promote ease with language. Having access to one of your most important tools is as important to school work as it is to any other job. We love it when our tools are just a reach away. Keeping movement happening even in a small way is key to maintaining attention and focus. Some fidgets easily attach to zippers, belt loops, bookbags, backpacks, lunchboxes, pencils, and desks, or are worn as jewelry. One teacher attaches them under students' desktops. Focus is important. Attachable fidgets make getting the job done easier!

20 Simple Ways to Improve Concentration

  1. Take movement breaks before working.
  2. Listen to music scientifically arranged to promote focus.
  3. Perform wall or chair push-ups.
  4. Chew gum or a chewy.
  5. Set a metronome to 60 beats per minute.
  6. Use Brain Gym™ before work activities.
  7. Minimize visual distractions.
  8. Use bright, natural lighting.
  9. Wiggle on a ball chair or in-seat concentration cushion.
  10. Use a white-noise machine to minimize auditory distractions.
  11. Suck on an atomic fireball or Altoid™ candy.
  12. Fidget with a "fidget" while reading or listening.
  13. Diffuse essential oils such as tangerine, basil, or rosemary.
  14. Set a Time Timer™ to avoid obsessing about time constraints.
  15. "Fidget" with your legs by shaking your foot or using a moving footrest.
  16. Rock rhythmically in a chair with two x-shaped holes cut in tennis ball "socks" placed on chair legs.
  17. Swing or start a runner's club on the playground before school.
  18. Jump on a trampoline or Bungee Jumper between assignments.
  19. Create a way to kinesthetically learn the material.
  20. Move, move, move...MOVE!


Time-In Vs. Time-Out... What's It All About?
Most of us are familiar with the concept of "time-out", a behavioral approach where a child is removed from a meaningful activity, as a consequence of a negative behavior, for a specific period of time. Sometimes the child is encouraged to think about what made the behavior inappropriate for the situation, and what they could do differently next time. The approach can be incredibly effective with children, since most children start out the same...wanting to engage and be loved and accepted.

Sometimes "time-out" is effective for a different reason. When a child's neurological system is immature and on "overload," removing the child from extra sensory input that allows their system to calm down. Being in a "meltdown" doesn't feel good to the child either. Some kids learn to "time-out" themselves by going to the bathroom...A LOT. For children with a sensory modulation disorder, being in a room with just one person is unpredictable. " Create your "time-in" center today.



Visual Processing

shop all visual processingVision: A Learning Connection
What happens when visual issues exist? Often, a child is referred for a vision check-up, and the "all clear" is given, meaning the actual eyes work well. When the body doesn't register movement appropriately, it is difficult for the brain to send the "endure" message to muscles. This impacts eye muscles, too. Think of the ways we need visual endurance in the classroom: looking at words on a page and moving all the way across without losing the place; looking for an assignment on the board, refocusing on the paper to write information, then up, then down, then up, etc.; and using two eyes together to move through the room without bumping or touching objects. This list is endless! A good visual assessment, with a developmental optometrist or occupational therapist, will identify the solutions that will work for your child.

Concept of Time
Understanding the concept of time is a developmental process for all children. Most children begin to understand concepts of time between 4-5 years of age and have a more refined understanding by the time they are 9-10 (of course, this varies with every child). However, children who do not process visual information efficiently have additional challenges in understanding time. We offer you products that make understanding time a visual experience that everyone can "see."



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