Walking through Wyandot ECS’s front office, a dark room offset with blue lights, an aquarium mural and a gigantic teddy bear in the corner may cause one to pause - but that’s exactly the point. Referred to as the “Pause Room,” the former office retrofitted into a calming space is specifically designed to help students explore strategies for regulating their emotions in a healthy and productive way.
“It’s already proving to be a really valuable tool for students with heightened emotions to regain control of their minds and bodies before returning to class ready to learn,” said Wyandot counselor Jennifer Gillum.
The idea for the space began with a simple connection made possible by a Wyandot parent and representative of Lakota CARES, a parent-led organization advocating for students with disabilities. Through that connection, Principal Kyle Lichey leaned on the experience of Pause for Parents Play for Kids, which runs a similar space for parents of children with special needs at Center Pointe Christian Church. Wyandot ultimately received their financial support to equip their new room with the tools they needed to launch the Pause Room.
Different from Pause for Parents Play for Kids, however, the space is not designed for any specific student profile. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Accessible to all, it follows the lead of Lakota’s guiding vision to provide a personalized learning experience for every single student.
The room purposefully includes an assortment of sensory-based tools. For example, a set of cushions double as comfy furniture and building blocks that are oftentimes used to make a fort. A small tent provides a dark space of refuge, while the giant teddy bear has been used as both a pillow and a weighted blanket. Portable tiles on the floor engage students’ visual and tactile senses, similar to the lighted bubble aquarium in another corner. Alternatively, a white noise machine taps into students’ auditory senses.
“Just like we practice in our classrooms, there’s a lot of student choice and It’s really interesting to see what students gravitate toward when they visit the space,” Gillum said.
“Emotional self-regulation is something that has to be learned, but it’s different from one person to the next,” she continued. “It’s our job to give them different options and strategies so they can explore what works best for them.”
Similarly, the specific use of the tool is individualized. While some students might have scheduled times to visit the space, others view it as more of a reward. Still others use it more sporadically to diffuse big emotions when they arise.
“In any case, it’s used as more of a preventative tool to stop escalation past a boiling point,” Lichey said. “It’s naturally becoming a go-to tool to help bring calmness quicker and we are so glad to have it.”
- mental health