Laredo’s new sensory room isn’t just a tool

The City of Laredo this week introduced its first sensory room at the Fasken Recreation Center, which is expected to complement a number of therapy centers for the autism community. They say it will provide the areas with educational and recreational opportunities, as well as therapeutic amenities such as weighted products, soft play equipment, bubble tubes and interactive wall panels.

“I am very much looking for ways for families to spend time together and for the city to provide opportunities and resources for families and children. I am very proud of this piece. I hope you all enjoy it,” said District VII council member Vanessa Perez.

However, the convenient new location should set a trend for more city-created sensory rooms, including one in the South Laredo Library. According to Veronica Orduno, founder of Families for Autism Support and Awareness, the city has taken a step in the right direction, and she said such support is a boon for children and adults on the autism spectrum now. and in the future.

The Fasken Sensory Room isn’t the only room in Laredo, as there are on school campuses, but the location offers more than just convenience. Orduno told his foundation that the sensory room is a place where an autistic child can defuse their emotions and anxiety while being in a recreation center surrounded by other children.

This refuge, she says, houses a large number of sensory objects to avoid or calm a crisis.

It is important to note that a meltdown is not a call for attention or a temper tantrum, but the result of a child or adult shifting into a rigid mental program that cannot be neither replaced nor ignored. Orduno gave an example of a situation where if a child’s computer time is delayed or stopped by an internet outage, the child’s computer time is essentially at a standstill and the anxiety increases to not move forward leads to a collapse.

“It’s computer time and the internet is shutting down, but it’s still computer time; our kids can’t move on to ‘let me do other things’ because in my schedule and in my mind being so structured, it’s still computer time,” Orduno said. “That’s how our kids are structured.”

She explained that a “normal” child faced with a similar situation has the ability to desensitize without reaching a crisis point. Faced with an internet outage, this child can use their phone, hang out, or do anything other than be on the computer.
However, for children and adults with autism, change can be difficult.

Ultimately, sensory rooms are the next step, or preliminary step, in a process to regulate the flow of emotions and anxiety in an autistic child through a number of actions put in place. seat in the room. This includes some time in a calming room before reaching the sensory room. The soothing room can be described as an underwater view with soft music playing as a bubble lamp illuminates the room. Children are expected to be soothed and reduce feelings of anxiety before continuing into the sensory room filled with more colors and items to meet their exact needs.

This is another step in which the city is actively seeking to address the needs and concerns of autistic families who have sought to focus more on the needs of their children and adults who are on the spectrum. Orduno said she has spoken with city health department staff about adding a pressure machine that would help encompass the wide range of sensory tools in the room and hopes to see it added soon. This machine would compress the individual, much like draping someone with a heavy blanket for 5-10 minutes.

When it comes to timing, parents should understand that the Sensory Room is not a glorified playroom, but a scientifically backed tool to help relieve the pressure of anxiety on children and adults with autism. Orduno said this was not a place to leave a child for hours and then pick them up, as that would have the opposite effect of the sensory room.

“Instead of calming them down, it’s going to have a negative effect and here comes the meltdown,” she said. “…We need to understand, our community needs to understand, 15 to 20 minutes max in this room to do all kinds of different activities, don’t limit yourself to just one activity and then ‘OK, see you later in the room’ , and by then they should have defused.

According to the city, the project is a collaboration between Perez, the City of Laredo Parks and Recreation Department, the City of Laredo Health Department, Family Support and Community Resources, and the Program for Children and Young Adults with special health needs.

Orduno said parents across the community are relieved and the city is listening to the autism community’s concerns. Relief turns to gratitude and hope that more sensory rooms will be open across the city for children and family.

After her child was diagnosed in 1995, she worked diligently to raise awareness and address concerns in the autism community. Orduno said her experience when her child was first diagnosed was denial.

However, it is important for parents whose children have been recently diagnosed or expectant parents of children with autism to note that the diagnosis can be extremely isolating. Parents and children may feel restricted from going outside due to the potential for sensory overload, which can lead to meltdowns.

Orduno said that may not be the case because parents can visit these rooms and talk with other families, which further binds the community together without limiting the possibility of going out into the world without fear of a collapse. .

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