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Beyond A Spectrum autism treatment center Executive Director Tracy Regard (left) and Board President Jessica Dekle (center) accept the “big check” from Central Louisiana Community Foundation CEO Liv Mileshko. The Marksville agency received the $12,000 grant from CLCF to fund a “sensory room” for autism therapy. {Photo courtesy of Tracy Regard}

'Beyond A Spectrum' treatment center receives grant for ‘sensory room’

New therapy helps children with autism adjust to world around them

Children with autism in this area will soon have access to a new therapy, thanks to a grant awarded to Beyond A Spectrum (BAS), a non-profit organization in Marksville.

The $12,000 grant from the Central Louisiana Community Foundation (CLCF) will fund the creation of a “sensory room” for autism therapy for its clients in its offices at 114 N. Main Street.

Beyond A Spectrum is a non-profit center for children with autism and other special needs that provides assessments, counseling and therapy.

“Children with autism often have trouble with sensory integration, which can be the root cause of problems in development, information processing and behavior,” BAS Executive Director Tracy Regard said.

She said those with autism have a difficulty connecting the sensory systems that deal with what they can touch and feel, their sense of balance and those things they can touch and hold, their sense of balance and stimuli they feel as they move or position their bodies.

Those systems “can be overactive or not active enough as a child interacts with his or her environment.,” Regard added. 

DEVELOPS SENSES 

  A sensory room combines a range of items intended to stimulate and develop the child’s senses. These can include lights, colors, sounds, soft toys and aroma-producing items.

The room is a safe environment that builds a child’s confidence in learning to interact with the sensory stimulations of the world around them in an unrestrained, non-threatening space.

The teacher, therapist or caregiver can observe and learn what sensory item calms or agitates the child and what he likes or dislikes.

Children with autism “react differently than expected when given sensory input, either failing to integrate or organize new information appropriately,” Regard explained.

Sensory rooms were introduced in the 1970s as a form of therapy to help people with intellectual and physical disabilities stimulate their senses in a safe environment.

COPE BETTER

“By controlling sound, lighting, touch and temperature, they help a child with autism to better cope with the world around them,” Regard said.

Research has found sensory rooms to be beneficial in stimulating areas of the brain that help children learn and retain more information, thus better meeting their needs.

It can develop the user’s visual processing abilities and fine motor skills, which also helps them function better in daily life.

The therapy also provides a moment of comfort and calm for overactive or distressed individuals. On the other end of that behavior scale, the sensory room has been found to help inactive children feel more engaged in their surroundings and provide a clearer focus.

The therapy will also help the child with socialization deficiencies, Regard noted.

SAFE, SUPERVISED SPACE

“Children with autism don’t always get as many opportunities to interact and play with others as their peers do, which can lead to isolation and depression,” she said.

“Multi-sensory environments give kids a safe and supervised space where they can interact and communicate with other children and learn the social skills they’ll need as they grow -- all without feeling stressed out or aggressive.”

The sensory room therapy has even been successful in bringing some non-responsive children “out of their shell,” she added.

Regard said the center also received a $1,000 grant from Walmart to create a “sensory path” down the main hallway.

That should be in place in the near future.

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105 N Main St
Marksville, LA 71351
(318) 253-9247