Juneva Orozco-Medina laughed as she bounced up and down on a trampoline in Room 31 at La Rosa Elementary School Thursday morning.
Danny Maldonado Miramontes smiled while being pushed on an oversized swing.
Tatiana Espinoza showed no fear as she made her way down a slide.
Orozco-Medina, Maldonado Miramontes and Espinoza are among the 26 preschool to third grade students who utilize the Sensory-Motor Room designed for moderate to severely handicapped pupils.
“Having this has been great for my students that are non-communicative,” said James Hayes, a special education teacher at La Rosa for the past 14 years. “Different activities in here help stimulate their senses.”
“He has a huge heart,” Principal Lori Mariani said of Hayes. “He’s so patient with the kids. The students adore him.”
The Sensory-Motor Room at La Rosa was opened during the 2018-19 school year. It is designed for students who have complex physical and communication difficulties, which negatively impacts their learning.
Students learn through touch, sound, gross and fine motor movement, communication and switches.
The sensory equipment is used to develop a range of physical skills. The room can also act as a calming space for pupils experiencing emotional or behavioral difficulties.
“We give them the freedom to do what they want to do,” said Ceres Unified School District Special Education Assistant Technology Specialist Marcia Quazzia. “They’ll gravitate to stuff they like. They think they’re playing. They’re really learning.”
“Being able to have a room like this is beneficial to us,” CUSD Special Ed Program Specialist Janelle DeGreek added. “We’re able to keep more of our mod-to-severe students on a public campus. They’re able to be with general-education students.”
“We’ve had it for several years,” Mariani said. “This is a much-improved version. When non-verbal students get frustrated, we can take them in there. It’s an environment that is soothing to them. We want every student to be as successful as they can be.”
CUSD plans on opening a Sensory-Motor Room at Adkison Elementary in the near future. It will be used by third- through sixth-graders.
“Ceres is really proactive in using new techniques for students with moderate to severe disabilities,” Hayes said. “We get them to focus more on the world around them.”