A team of Mercer County educators from Princeton public schools, including Lynn Spirko, Ashley Kennedy, Kathryn Yeh, Alison Unkert, Kirsten Meehan, Marybeth Bardachino and Mark Shelley, were awarded a $3,600 grant from the Hipp Foundation to establish “sensory paths” at the Pre-K through fifth-grade elementary school.
Differences in processing sensory stimuli can occur across all student populations. Without proper understanding, these students face over-classification into special education. Students are often separated into special needs classrooms and imposed punitive consequences for manifesting sensory integration difficulties during instruction.
The school has five self-contained settings for students with autism and multiple disabilities. Approximately 20 percent of the student population needs activities specifically designed for sensory integration difficulties due to diagnosis such as ADHD, Autism, anxiety or physical disabilities. Incorporating daily sensory input and regular opportunities for children to improve their ability to use sensory information is essential to the district’s goal of meaningful inclusion. To address this goal, teachers will conduct a sensory needs assessment for targeted students and general education students. Areas of the school will be prepared and the sensory paths will be professionally installed.
The project team will modify the path periodically in accordance with current research on sensory integration resulting in a variety of elemental variables that can be used repeatedly. The sensory path will become an integral part of the physical building and will be maintained through the custodial staff’s regular routines. On-going modification of the path will be supported through the regular school budget and committed PTO support.
Students will be trained on how to use the sensory path beginning with the youngest special education students. Each month, the team will add a cohort of students in the use of the sensory path so that all students have ample time to understand the elements of the path and how to move through it effectively. A family program will introduce the parents to the sensory path.
The sensory path will address student behavior and incorporate student wellness in the instructional program. The sensory path will serve as an exemplar for sensory integration for the other schools within the district with future expansion to those schools expected.
For more information, contact:
Lynn Spirko, Project Coordinator
(609) 806-4260 (school)