Kate's sensory/therapy room is really coming together. There are a few finishing touches that need to be added (the shelving and the mirror), but essentially it is finished and Kate is receiving a lot of her therapy up there. If you are lucky enough to have some extra space in your home, and you are considering building a room like this, l will break down what we did. We certainly did not spend a bunch of money and with the help of family and friends we really didn't work too hard either. We are extremely lucky. This is how it all went down.
We moved into this house a few years ago when I was pregnant with Kate. The bonus room above the garage was a selling feature insofar as we thought it would be a great media/theatre room or a man cave or a sewing room for me.... whatever….but none of those ever happened. Like all good maritimer's, all of our socializing happens in the kitchen and the bonus room went largely unused. I would tutor up there in the summer months but otherwise it was wasted space. Here is a photo of the room as we started to transform it. The walls were a dark brown before we put on this first coat of paint. Paint is cheap and so is the labor when you have an uncle who wants to help out his little neice. I had orignally planned to invite some girls over and get to painting with a bottle of wine on hand, but when Kate's contractor uncle offered to do the job I figured, better let the professional do it. If you are in our boat, I hope you have as much support as we do and if you are not in our boat I hope you support someone who is, because it means so much to everyone involved.
Once Kate received her diagnosis we researched all of our options to help her. A sensory/therapy room was popping up in all the current literature. So, we knew we wanted one. It was just a matter of choosing the design. We chose to design our room based on the Son-Rise Model. Kate's uncle painted the room a lovely 'therapy green' and her grandparents used Christmas as an excuse to shower her with therapy toys for her room. Son-Rise actually gives a list of the toys that should be included in the room. They are not expensive and pretty easy to find. A tea set is one example of a toy they recommend that encourages imaginative play. Many of the toys are to encourage turn-taking and shared play. It might look like any playroom but I assure you; the choices are very deliberate. Below are some of the toys that Kate uses in her room. See, the big exercise ball in the picture above? I wish I could say it was mine and I was using it reguarly to work on my core :), but it is there for Kate. It is among the items on the list and can be used in so many great ways to work with kids. Another inexpensive additon to our room.
These alphabet puzzle mats are perfect for the floor and run around $30. Since we try to use the floor-time approach with Kate at home, it is important to have a comforable area to play on the floor with Kate. These mats are perfect because they are easy to move around and can be washed in the bathtub when needed. We also found a great deal on proper gym mats here. Proper mats are needed for Kate to work on some gross-motor skills. She loves rough and tumble play and we want to keep her and ourselves safe :). They will be arriving soon. We found them for a price of $99 each.
Next, we installed the best part! Kate's swing. She absolutely loves it. We are technically supposed to make sure that everything in the room is used for Kate's therapy only but there is no way I am going to deprive Grace of having a go at that swing whenever she pleases. As team captain, she will have special privileges in Kate's therapy room. As you can see, Monty also enjoys the swing. We usually have to kick him out before the girls can use it. I imagine he thinks this is his new bed. Monty has been responsible for bringing more words out of Kate than anyone else, so if Monty wants to use the swing, like Grace, he has special privledges. This was one of the more expensive tools in the room but if your child responds to deep pressure, small spaces, or enjoys swinging or spinnning, one of these swings is a must. You can find one for less here. The girls both love it as you can see from the pictures below.
This is the mirror I really wanted but the $223.75 Price tag put a stop to that. Acrylic or non-breakable mirrors are more expensive than your run-of-the-mill mirrors so we are still searching for a better option. Kate loves mirrors and they are a great for imaginative play and working on Speech, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy goals. We also use mirrors to work on facial expression recognition. Is there anything funnier than watching a toddler looking at herself in the mirror. If you have not tried this place your toddler in front of a large mirror and sit back and watch. It is even better to catch them doing it when they think there is no one watching.
Next we added some fun lighting (once again, thanks to family). Sensory lighting helps Kate relax and focus. Actually, I think it would help anyone relax and focus. Find a comfy spot and cuddle with my girls and watch the pretty lights on the walls? Yes, I think I will. The lighted aquarium runs a whopping $14.95 and the disco ball was even less. Where possible I have linked the details of where to get these items to the photo so click if you are interested. Once again Monty makes a cameo on this blog. I guess the rest of the family is getting some sensory therapy too. I consider us pretty lucky.
There you have it. Our version of a sensory room on a dime (with lots of help). I couldn't leave without showing you a little "therapy" in action. Grace does not know there is anything different about Kate. She does love to play school and she is helping Kate more than she knows. She is so kind and patient I feel like my heart is going to burst when I watch her. Take a look.
Grace and Kate's mom. (Shanell)