Camelot Therapeutic Day School of the Quad Cities Uses Movement and Activity to Improve Cognition and Attention
Camelot Education’s Therapeutic Day School (TDS) of the Quad Cities in Moline, IL, has a new tool to help students focus throughout the day. It’s a sensory pathway, a series of colorful vinyl graphics and images that adorn the hallway floors and walls and direct students to complete a variety of different movements as they walk through the hallway. The idea is to provide movement breaks and, in turn, increase cognition.
In the sensory pathway, movements are short and quick, and the artwork lining the path is brightly colored. “We noticed that when our students started losing cognitive functioning (the mental process by which one becomes aware of, perceives, or comprehends ideas) during the learning process, the bright colors helped give them some sensory input,” said Camelot TDS of the of the Quad Cities Executive Director Debra Singley. “We know movements that offer students physical and balance inputs help them refocus and ultimately increase cognition and learning, so the sensory pathways are a great way to incorporate these techniques into learning.”
The sensory pathway was made possible by a generous donation by a memorial fund from Wilma Johannsen, the grateful grandmother of one of the school’s students.
“When we were notified about the fund, we decided to honor Ms. Johannsen and her grandson by purchasing the materials for the pathway,” Singley said. “Our staff members gathered one afternoon during our summer break to install the pathway. When the students returned in the fall, they were delighted to see the colorful pathway in the hallway and immediately began using it in a variety of ways.”
One student, Destini, age 17, was a quick adapter. “I think the pathway is fun and relaxing. I use it to take a break. I never had a sensory pathway in my old school, and this helps me regain my focus once I go back to class,” she said.
Camelot TDS of the Quad Cities provides academic and therapeutic services for children, adolescents, and young adults ages 3 to 21 with exceptional needs including emotional and behavioral disabilities, specific learning disabilities, autism, and other health impairments.
Sensory regulation is the body’s ability to adjust arousal or alertness levels to cope with sensory events and demands. The body registers five senses: sound, vision, smell, taste, and touch. There is also a sense of movement and balance and a sense of input to our muscles and joints.
“Any type of sensory input given to the body typically lasts 90 minutes to two hours,” according to Christy Hansen, a pediatric occupational therapist whose expertise Camelot followed in adapting the pathway. “Children need multiple breaks throughout the day to stay regulated. The movement needs to last 5-10 minutes depending on age, and be intense enough to carry over throughout the day.”
Hansen referred to research findings that support the need for sensory regulation:
• There is a statistical link between movement breaks and cognition. When children are regulated they are more attentive, focused, and calm and retain more information.
• Evidence suggests that math and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity.
• Teachers responded that physical activity improved students’ concentration, energy level, and peer interactions.
The original sensory path was designed by a physical education teacher with the help of occupational therapists, physical therapists, and teachers. Singley said most students at Camelot’s TDS of the Quad Cities are using the pathway multiple times a day, and they have seen a noticeable, positive influence on students’ ability to stay tuned-in to class.
One satisfied customer is eight-year-old Adler, who said, “I use it when I walk down the hallway. It helps me strengthen my knees, and it helps me calm down before I go back to class.”
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