Making play fun for everyone
The sound of kids running, laughing and playing is often music to a parent’s ear. A simple joy of childhood, playtime creates educational opportunities as children interact with their environment and other people. However, for children with disabilities or sensory impairments, playtime is not quite as simple.
Children with sensory disorders, such as autism, may face hyper-sensitivities or hypo-sensitivities — over-responsiveness and under-responsiveness to sensory stimulants. Certain lights, sounds, or textures can cause the child to become uncomfortable and that can make playing difficult.
A safe space for play
The Toledo Sensory Room is a safe space for all children, but specifically those with sensory impairments, to engage in play. Nicole Danz, the volunteer coordinator for The Toledo Sensory Room, said, “We are providing a multi-sensory environment where sensory stimulation can be monitored and the kids can actively or passively interact with this environment, ultimately getting the chance to play in a way that meets his/her individualized needs.”
Equipped for fun
The room opened in 2012 when The University of Toledo and ProMedica, working together, received a grant to help provide the funds for the room’s equipment. They then collaborated with Special Kids Therapy, which hosts its own sensory room in Findlay, to determine what equipment would be most beneficial for The Toledo Sensory Room.
The facility is an open space located in the ProMedica Finnegan Family Autism Center. Children can interact with toys like the ball pit, a small climbing wall, bubble machines, and a chair that vibrates and pulses to the beat of music. There are also various texture toys and a sensory wall with varying textures, toys that make different sounds, and toys that move. “Some kids enjoy lights, some enjoy sounds, some enjoy the touch and feel of different textures. So we have all that in one room,” said Danz. During the warmer months, an outdoor enclosed playground space is open to the children as well.
Details about visiting
Run by volunteers from the University of Toledo Occupational Therapy Doctorate program, the volunteers help to guide the children with their interactions in the room and facilitate play. Parents and guardians are asked to stay to interact with their children and the environment as well.
The ProMedica Finnegan Family Autism Center, 2040 W. Central Avenue. Open three times a month; two Tuesdays from 5-7pm and one Saturday from 10am-12pm. Specific days are posted on The Toledo Sensory Room’s Facebook, facebook.com/toledosensoryroom. Admission into the room is free.
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