Colorful letters, numbers and planets arranged along the floor at one Grand Haven school is getting students’ attention.
Ferry Elementary School Principal Shelly Hammond said she sees students navigating the stickered paths as they walk through the hallway on their way to lunch, recess or specials classes. The stickers form the new sensory path along part of the first floor at the school.
The sensory path is aimed at providing students with a break to help them refocus in the classroom. The school’s educators are working to become more sensory sensitive, Hammond said.
When Hammond joined the district’s staff in the 2017-18 school year, they started learning about regulating behaviors and meeting students’ physical needs to help them focus. Hammond noted that even adults need to get up and move, and students aren’t any different.
Educators try to help students by providing them with noise-canceling headphones, along with weighted blankets and vests that help provide deep-touch stimulation.
Another way to help is the sensory path, which was recommended by Kailey Miller, a teacher of a self-contained autism-spectrum classroom at Ferry. Miller said she’s researched about the role sensory paths play in helping regulate students’ behaviors, particularly those who have ADHD or come from trauma.
Twice a day, students in Miller’s class participate in sensory stations. They also partner with the Great Start Readiness Program students for inclusion opportunities.
Last year, the Ferry leadership team looked at different opportunities for impacting students. After having some additional funds in the school’s budget, they used about $1,500 to purchase the trail, Hammond said.
The trail kit includes the alphabet, numbers, hopscotch, planets and stars for push-ups against a wall. Stickers direct students to reach high and low.
Stickers for yoga poses will be installed at a later date.
Being placed outside the kindergarten and Young Fives classrooms, the path also gives younger children a chance to work on the alphabet, letter sounds and counting, Hammond said.
Hammond hopes to extend the path around the lower level of the school by the end of the year.
Kelly Slagle, a special-education teacher, is also arranging a room and coordinating a check-out system for sensory-friendly items that the school's staff and students can use. She said some people need stimulation while others need to de-stimulate.
“It’s giving them a break to regain and go back to learning,” Slagle said.