Grant Leads to Development of Sensory Rooms in Ashland University’s College of Education and Elyria Campus

Grant Leads to Development of Sensory Rooms in Ashland University’s College of Education and Elyria Campus
Ashland University College of Education faculty members and students posing in the new active sensory room located in the Schar College of Education include, front row, left to right: Olivia Chudanov, Alexa Moore and Carla Abreu-Ellis; and second row, left to right: Abigail Chandler, Kayle Timura, Hollis Coldwater, Sarah Burr, Emma Fredle and Jason Brent Ellis.

4/24/18 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University’s Department of Teacher Education in the Dwight Schar College of Education received a $216,093 curriculum development grant from the Ohio Deans Compact on Exceptional Children last fall and this grant has allowed the department to create dual licensure programs between early childhood, middle grades education and K-12 intervention specialist.

“The new curriculum proposals are under review with the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) and, as part of this grant, two active sensory rooms -- one on main campus in the Dwight Schar College of Education and one on the AU campus of Lorain County Community College in Elyria -- have been completed,” said Jason Ellis, principal investigator for the grant and professor of teacher education at AU.

According to Ellis, a total of $15,122.38 was allotted for each sensory room.

“The active sensory rooms have equipment that stimulate the senses such as a swing, ball pit, interactive software that offers games that react to movement, and other equipment that enhance motor planning, balance and overall sensory integration,” he said.

Carla Abreu-Ellis, co-principal investigator and professor of teacher education at AU, noted that the new sensory rooms will become an integral part of the curriculum as the Department of Teacher Education offers a class on sensory motor integration.

“This class is taught in collaboration with occupational and physical therapists to demonstrate the importance of collaboration in the field of education and to enhance the sensory experiences of PreK-12 grade students,” she said. “Ideally, the new facility will enhance the collaboration between the Dwight Schar College of Education and our community partners.”

Abreu-Ellis said when approved, the new curriculum will allow for an additional 15 clinical hours associated with the sensory motor integration class. “It is our goal to fully prepare our teachers to collaborate with therapists and families to address the sensory needs of PreK-12 students,” she said.

The sensory rooms were planned by a select group of AU students majoring in K-12 Intervention (mild to intensive) and Early Childhood Intervention. They planned the rooms during the fall 2017 semester and assisted in the purchase and assembling of equipment during the spring 2018 semester.

“It was an excellent learning opportunity for all of our students who participated in the fact that they learned how to budget, work with vendors and participated in installing the equipment in the room,” Ellis said. He further noted that the students “analyzed which products would best meet the sensory needs of a wide range of users.”

Alexa Moore, a senior early childhood intervention major at Ashland from Defiance, Ohio, said “working in the education profession, we are constantly working with physical and occupational therapists and collaboration between us is vital for the students’ success. Whether it be finding a time for them to receive these services or incorporating different skills in our classroom, collaboration is a must. Creating this sensory room gave me great practice in this skill as we collaborated with both OTs and PTs to ensure we included must needed items in the room.”

Sarah Burr, a freshman K-12 Intervention Specialist major from Mechanicsville, Md., stated “Being part of the AU team that planned the sensory rooms has been a remarkable opportunity. As a freshman, this activity allowed me to gain hands-on experience and make bigger personal and professional contacts that will help me over the course of my college career.”

Abigail Chandler, a senior K-12 Intervention Specialist major from Wooster, Ohio, noted “This project has been amazing. We thought about every detail to maximize universal design and to get the greatest possible outcome from this room for people who need the sensory relief. Overall, we achieved our goals for the final outcome of the room and are happy with the way it has turned out.”     

In the second year of the grant, two additional rooms that promote a calming effect on the senses will be completed on both campuses.

“This is an exciting time for the Dwight Schar College of Education as faculty and students are following every step of the installation and they are excited to incorporate the changes into curriculum and classroom learning activities to maximize the learning experience of the college’s undergraduate pre-service teachers,” Ellis said.

Ashland University, ranked in the top tier of colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2018, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.                                                                                ###