Students learning to self-regulate and de-stress with school sensory corners

Published: Apr. 3, 2019 at 4:02 PM EDT
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"Watching him grow and seeing the things that he needed to help him grow is what caused me to see that I've got 25 kids in here who could use the same as my son," said Jessica Haynes, a 2nd grade teacher at Nutter Fort Primary.

Six year ago, Haynes and her husband adopted one of her students who was living in a children's shelter and suffering from developmental trauma.

While caring for her son, Haynes realized the importance of kids learning how to handle stress and trauma, and is now teaching those lessons to her students.

"It's really getting in touch with their feelings, and understanding they can't learn if they're not in a position to be calm and mindful."

To help give kids a place to self-regulate, classrooms have set up sensory corners.

These areas were designed by students with items that help clear their minds and relax them. Any student can go into the sensory area to help them cope with a variety of stressors.

"We have the occasional things where police have come to the house in the middle of the night, and so they know they need to probably sit in there for about 15 minutes to regain some focus," said Haynes. "Or even for kids playing sports who are stressed about not winning."

Haynes says while these sensory corners help teach their students how to care for themselves and take mental breaks, they also help with teacher burnout.

"We are losing teachers so fast. And it's all because of vicarious trauma, which is trauma teachers take in dealing with the kids and their trauma. So that has been a focus to really try to have self-care as well as teaching the kids self-care."

Moving forward, Haynes hopes focusing more on the social and emotional needs of students, as well as their academics, helps create a balance for healthy learning.