For Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Elementary School, the installation of a Calming Room, a Vision Support Room, 11 new accessible doors, and an accessible personal care space, has less to do with a school makeover and everything to do with a more inclusive environment.
The new additions bring in much needed support, said Special Education Resource Teacher Nicole Neal, who notes that the school has a high population of students with special needs, both physical and developmental, in addition to a larger Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) population.
"Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Elementary School completed renovations this summer in order to provide students the opportunity to move towards independence regardless of their exceptionality," says Principal Lesia Konyt-Mella.
The Calming Room, also known as a Sensory Support Room, is a spacious area where students can explore their senses through select equipment and materials in a soothing space. The room can be therapeutic to children with distinct needs or mental health issues, like anxiety.
"This fully accessible learning environment allows the school to meet the basic needs of students with varying abilities and potential," says Neal.
Part of being a fully accessible school means being all-inclusive.
"Our addition supports our Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board motto of "Each Belongs" and was designed to be in a central location within the building so that all students could share in the benefits of this new facility," says Konyt-Mella.
This means students, with or without an exceptionality, are permitted to use the room as a means to combat stress and refocus their thoughts.
Stemming from the Calming Room, a Vision Support Room gives students an opportunity to develop their vision using a Light Box. A completely blacked out room allows students to focus on using the equipment to build their visual motor and visual perception skills, says Special Education Resource Teacher Antonia Del Monaco.
Like the Calming Room, the Visual Support Room is also available to any student who might need a moment to him or herself in a quiet place before heading back to class.
"Our goal was to make the school more accessible, continue the fostering of independence, and establish an environment that supports students’ basic care needs and mental health and well-being," says Konyt-Mella.