Sensory Project at Baker Hall School
In the spring of 2016, six graduate students from SUNY Buffalo Occupational Therapy Program worked with our clients in the Baker Hall School Program. For seven consecutive weeks the graduate students taught two classes about the senses including vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch. The presentations followed a curriculum called The Alert Program; How Does Your Engine Run? Our students also learned about the lesser known senses of the vestibular system (which regulates movement and balance reactions through the inner ear) and proprioception (which detects heavy weight bearing through the joint receptors and teaches our body about where we are in space). The students and staff in Mrs. Melissa Stone's and Ms. Barb Kline's classes were all active participants in this project.
Each week, students learned about the systems by participating in hands on activities to reinforce their knowledge of the senses. The goal of the program was to educate students about the systems and give them the opportunity to decide if certain activities helped their engines to "run too low", "run too high" or "run just right". The activities they found to help their engines "run just right" were included in a Sensory Safety Plan. The plan was placed on flip cards connected by a ring so that each student could refer to throughout the day when they feel they needed a sensory break.
During the last week of the program, all the students had the opportunity to make a sensory box that included items that would help their engines "run just right".
This was the first year for the program at Baker Hall School. Deborah Vokes, Occupational Therapist at Baker Hall School collaborated with Dr. Janice Tona, Director of the Occupational Therapy Program at SUNY Buffalo. Dr. Tona has offered to provide graduate students each spring to continue this program by providing BVS students with the skills required to stay in their classroom and to be more attentive. The end goal is for all the students and staff at Baker Hall School to be trained in the Alert Program. Understanding the senses and the importance for our students to be able to demonstrate modulation of their senses will help them become more successful in their roles as students and friends.
Our first year was a success and all of the students looked forward to learning about their senses! We are very thankful for all the efforts of the graduate students.
BHS Occupational Therapist, Deborah Vokes, is surrounded by the wonderful graduate students who worked with our students. Also pictured, from left to right are:
Olivia Emigh, Michaella Hayden, Emily Clark, Deborah Vokes (center), Alexandra Young, Emily Robson and Samantha Thayer.