Gin Gin State School is leading the way in helping children with autism and other needs in a therapeutic space called The Engine Room.
The Engine Room is a specialised gym that uses certain equipment and activities to help students engage, calm or focus themselves to be better prepared for learning and interacting with others.
Bundaberg Occupational Therapy director Barb Ballinger said she believed Gin Gin’s Engine Room was one of the first in a state school in Queensland, and the benefits since it was incorporated had been tremendous.
The Engine Room term comes from a course, Traffic Jam in my Brain, and was completed by one of the instigators of the room and parent Judy Fenn.
The course is run for people working with autistic children and uses The Alert Program and “how does your engine run” concept where children learn to check in to see if their engine (brain and body) is running too fast, too slow or just right.
The Gin Gin room helps children to reset their engine to get themselves to a position where they are ready to learn.
Barb said the enclosed space gave students of all abilities the chance to step aside when needed, which allowed them to refocus.
She said as a sensory room, therapists and teachers could work with individual students or with groups on movement, balance, visual, auditory and touch.
“This room gives students, especially those with special needs or autism, a chance to get away when needed and destress when they become overwhelmed by noise or touch, for example,” Barb said.
“There’s equipment here to work through a number of skills from gross motor to core work, and there’s the opportunity to work through motor planning and listening skills, setting and grading challenges.
“The kids develop a sense of achievement and confidence as they go along.”
Barb said although sensory rooms aimed to help specific students engage in the classroom, it was beneficial to all students.
“After being in here, students are more focused; they can work better as they are ready to sit and learn,” Barb said.
“They’ve had a chance to work out all their energy and get all the movement their bodies need.
“It works for both kids who have a lot of energy and can’t sit still and also for the kids who are tired, slumped down and can’t focus.
“As adults if we get like this, we go get a cup of tea, or do the washing etc to refocus, but for kids in class, they can’t always do that.
“So, if there is some movement opportunities and the kids can go out into the sensory room then that can work really well.”
Barb said from next term a therapist from Bundaberg Occupational Therapy would travel to Gin Gin to hold therapy sessions in The Engine Room.
The sessions will be held not only with Gin Gin State School students but also those from the high school and others in the community.
She said this meant families did not have to travel to find support and children did not miss out on as much school.
Gin Gin State School Principal Adam Fritz said the benefits of having a space like the Engine Room had followed on through the school.
“We assume that all children are able to listen to us, to maintain their concentration and to be calm enough or awake enough to participate in learning experiences,” he said.
“Our gym, or engine room, provides students with an opportunity to learn some self-regulation.
“Our engine room is used throughout the day by teachers taking class groups down to get their engines running at an optimal level, and also building their gross motor skills.”
- Other news: Café 641 to open on Saturday mornings