New sensory rooms providing therapeutic space for students

Five Harlingen CISD elementary school incorporated sensory rooms within their campuses this school year, thanks to a generous donation from the Harlingen Area Education Foundation, a non-profit organization.

“It’s enhanced the children’s motivation to learn … If we bring them here to decompress, they’re calmer they have a clear mind; they’re able to absorb more when they return to the classroom,” said Laura Mancilla, a teacher at Rodriguez Elementary School.

The Harlingen Area Education Foundation donated $5,000 to Rodriguez as well as Sam Houston, Milam, Long and Zavala elementary for the sensory rooms.

The sensory room serves as a therapeutic space for children that allow them to use their energy in a calming environment.

From a textured wall to a spinning disc that’s close to the ground, the tools inside the sensory classroom make a “big difference” for the children, Mancilla said.

“The best part is that they have a place to go where it’s okay to sit and stare at the lights and watch them change colors,” she said.

Harlingen CISD held a sensory room open house at Rodriguez Elementary School on Thursday to showcase the safe space to parents and community members.

“It took a lot of people to make this a reality,” said Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos. “It takes the whole community coming together to provide these opportunities for our children.”

Joining Cavazos, teachers, parents and staff was Harlingen CISD board trustees including President Dr. Nolan Perez.

“I’m just so proud that we have our all-inclusive parks and sensory rooms like this,” Perez said. “This board is just so happy to serve all students. We look for opportunities to get all students across the finish line; that’s what we’re passionate about.”

As students utilized the sensory tools like the pea pod used by children for compression, parents and grandparents took photos and smiled with pride and joy.

“She feels secure (in the sensory room). She feels good, and she feels loved in this school and especially in this room,” said Carmen Rojas, grandmother to one of the students. “They can jump, and they can do a lot more things here than in a regular room.”

Students agree with the sentiment.

“I love this!” one student exclaimed as he made his way down the obstacle course path during sensory room time.

Students with a need for the sensory room are able to experience it for about 30 minutes a day. The experience improves their focus and performance in their classrooms.

“They feel peaceful here, and they feel like it’s their room,” Rojas said. “I’m very satisfied with the school, the staff, and the principal. I see them outside when we pick up our kids every day.”

Five Harlingen CISD campuses currently utilize sensory rooms.

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