“Students have the basic functional conditions for learning thanks to the multisensory room”

Six months ago, 3Love Inc. contributed to implement a multisensory classroom in the C.E.B.E. “SURCO” in Lima Peru. Thanks to this classroom, children with different conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome and multidisability, have been able to improve their social skills, regulate their emotions and behavior.

 

We acquired implements such as a sensory table, a turntable, a square platform, a hanging ladder, a scooter, a hammock, an elastic bridge, among others; as well as special black curtains for this type of classroom and a gym floor that is specially designed to prevent falls.

We share the conversation we had this week with the director of C.E.B.E. “SURCO” María Quintanilla about the important advances that have been achieved in these first 6 months of functioning.

 

How do you evaluate the functioning of the multisensory classroom that was implemented a few months ago at C.E.B.E. “SURCO”?

 

The students love coming here. The main objective of the implementation of this room was because most of the students of this educational center have autism spectrum disorder and usually present disruptive behaviors, such as screaming, they would attack themselves or attack the teacher and suddenly run out of the classroom. Faced with this situation, the multisensory room has been implemented to help them. Thanks to God and 3Love Inc. and the Barranco Lions Club we were able to achieve this. All the students come to do group workshops, with a duration of 45 minutes each workshop. We also have individual work when they come to a program. This happens when the student does not stay in the classroom because there is a risk that he or she might attack the teacher and the other students. In this case, the mother accompanies the student, waits seated, the student enters a sensory program, then goes to the physical therapist, the speech therapist and the psychologist, then goes to the classroom for the sharing part and the student leaves. This takes 3 to 4 months, then when we see that the student can integrate, he or she goes to the classroom. This happens in most of the children with autism spectrum disorder, first the proprioceptive part and the emotions, fears, insecurity are regulated, so that they know how to fall, their own balance, to calm them down, so that they are not upset or annoyed. This helps them a lot so that the students can learn in the classroom. We are already seeing the results: that the students have the basic functional conditions for learning, through the implementation of the multisensory room.

How have the students reacted to the use of the multisensory classroom? Has it been easy for them to adapt to these stimuli?

 

It has been easy. They like coming to this room. They love it because, through the games, they will be able to regulate themselves, from waiting to balance. Here they have roller skates, they go on the see-saw, they swing on the swing, which is not exactly a swing, but it looks like one. They have little tolerance for waiting time, they get off one object and go to the other, it’s rotating, they go through the slide or the cylinder. But they have rules from the moment they enter: take off their shoes, come with clean socks, sit down and wait their turn. All this has allowed us to improve the classrooms for teaching. When they arrived in March, they did not have these behaviors, they did not line up, they did not wait, they cried, they were bored. It was difficult for them, because they do not tolerate that you demand rules and norms from them. The fact that we have to teach them that in the world we live in, everything is subject to rules and norms, is difficult for them. And we start from here, with simple things, from games. If they want to come and play here, they have to respect the rules. That is an achievement.

 

What feedback do parents receive about the use of the multisensory classroom?

 

On Fridays we are meeting with parents by classroom and by levels at a specific time, also with rules to explain the before and after: how their child entered in March and how he or she is now in September, what were the achievements obtained, what is the responsibility of the parent at home to replicate these tasks and the commitment that we still have to complete during this time. Each professional explains to the parents the work they have been doing, how they found their child, how he or she is now and what is missing, which is the task of the parent.

 

How did the desire to become a teacher of children with different abilities arise in you?

 

It was a matter of fate. I was an elementary school teacher for 8 years. Then the director asked me for my professional degree and I applied to Regular Basic Education at the Enrique Guzmán y Valle University of Education, but when I went to see my results I found myself placed in the Special Education specialty. Then I started to attend with a lot of enthusiasm, we took neuropsychology, developmental psychology, among other subjects. Actually, it is a career very close to the medical part, to understand everything related to disability. In that way, I learned to get to know the children when I went to do my internship. Children are very intelligent and they challenge you to see how you react. So from them I also learned about how we should handle ourselves, what strategy we should use and what tone of voice we should use, to congratulate them and also to bring order. I notice when students have intentions to investigate who you are. When the children in this school show disruptive behavior, I confront them and they respect me. No student has ever assaulted me at school.

How do disruptive behavior occur in students?

 

They are untimely situations. Suddenly you talk to them and the student may not understand or it may affect them. Or suddenly in class they don’t tolerate the material and start yelling. Or when you take away their food because snack time is over. When they enter the multisensory classroom, all that energy is eliminated or channeled and the student comes out calmer and more relaxed.

 

Nowadays, a greater integration approach is being sought for people with disabilities in study, work and other aspects. What do you think is needed to continue integrating them and giving them more tools for their personal development and fulfillment?

 

First, in order to help a person with a disability so that he or she can perform well in the educational aspect, we must know him or her. For this we talk about an evaluation that all schools must do when they enter, to know their strengths or the difficulties they present within their own disability. This will allow us to get to know them and be able to provide them with the optimal conditions for them. Another aspect is that every child with autism spectrum disorder needs the fundamental support of occupational technologists and psychiatrists. If the child is taken to the multisensory room with an occupational technologist and a psychiatrist hand in hand, he can have the basic functional conditions for learning, because he will be regulated. That energy and that memoristic intelligence should be channeled for meaningful learning that will do him good, to grow within the educational stages. But if the family does not take him to the professionals so that he receives a system of therapeutic work, they are not giving him the basic conditions. The autism spectrum disorder is very different from a severe disability or a motor disability, because this only involves physical therapy. However, autism spectrum disorder involves the work of a neuropsychiatrist and occupational technologist. Sometimes we do not give them this approach for the educational stage and these are the failures that exist. That is why it is important to identify these needs at an early age so that they can be attended to and have regularity in their educational process. This approach should be taken at the level of all schools. Basic education teachers must be prepared to receive early attention children who cannot be in the C.E.B.E. and who must go to regular basic education, but in order to go they must have the basic conditions. The family must be prepared so that the children at an early age are taken to their neuropsychiatrist and to their therapeutic process for the regulation of their emotions. With the accompaniment of these professionals, they can be included in regular basic education schools. Currently there are many problems, here I have students who have had a bad inclusion, there are children of high levels who should not be here, but they return because of the inadequate behaviors that occur there and they are not tolerated. They are returning to the C.E.B.E. and that should not happen, because they have already won a space. Added to this are the methodological strategies of the teachers, who are not prepared to attend to diversity. Not even 50% of the children who go to a regular basic education are attended as they should be. On the other hand, here in the assemblies held by the teachers, all the children pay attention to them. The teachers do their classes, all the children watch them and respond to them, because they also use different materials. I am in the back listening and everyone participates. The students have improved, we can already see the results, they have been able to establish pertinent strategies for student learning, considering their needs.

 

Interview by Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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