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Multi-sensory room for students with disabilities

The Valley Journals

MURRAY--Thanks to Kennecott Charitable Foundation, Riverview Junior High will have a multi-sensory room to help students who have autism and those with multi-sensory deficits.

An available small room adjacent to a classroom has already been painted black in anticipation of adding low lighting and other items on order to make a Snoezelen room.

“Taken from two Dutch words meaning ‘to sniff’ and ‘to dose,’ the room will allow students with multi-sensory deficits to awaken and react, while the kids with autism will do the opposite; they’ll calm down and relax,” said Wendy Bills, Murray School District supervisor of at-risk programs.

It was made possible by a $2,000 contribution from Kennecott Charitable Foundation on Nov. 16, Bills said.

“They have really been a wonderful support to us,” she said. “They helped us construct a Snoezelen room at Horizon (Elementary).”

Riverview will have Murray School District’s fourth multi-sensory room. The first was established in 2007 at Viewmont Elementary, followed by Longview Elementary’s room in 2008.

“It’s most advantageous to work with students in a small area, so they can focus on what’s happening and have everything right there. We’ve worked with students who need help with communication and behavioral issues, those with multiple disabilities, autism and sensory deficits,” Bills said.

She anticipates 12 students using the Riverview Snoezelen room, to be named the “Rio Tinto” room when it’s ready by mid-February. Peer tutors and other students will also be introduced to the room and to the equipment, such as a bubble tube, mirror ball and projector that can help students identify shapes, numbers and weather.

“Education is important to Kennecott, as a member of the community, and this is a fantastic opportunity to provide for these students that will dramatically improve their lives,” Kennecott Utah Copper spokesman Kyle Bennett said. “This was a good tie-in to our mission statement to help children, education and those with disabilities by providing a comfortable learning environment for them.”

Bills said she remembers working with a student with autism who was agitated when he arrived at school.

“He threw himself on the floor. We knew he loved the Snoezelen room, so we asked him if he could calm himself down, then he could use the room. Twenty minutes later, he was able to pull himself together. He knew he liked using the room and what he had to do to be in there,” she said.

Bills said she worked with a student with low vision in the Snoezelen room. The room’s lighting made it so the student could see the light rays and her eyes widened when she was able to see, she said.

Bennett said the funds come from those touring the copper mine’s visitors’ center, and Kennecott annually donates the funds to the community. From 1992 to 2011, $2.6 million was donated, with 2011 being a record year, and Kennecott donating $195,000 to the community.