As adults, we have learned how to deal with emotions and feelings in a rational way. This is something that is learned. When it comes to children, they may not yet know how to deal with stressful situations. Stress may be caused by their background and home situations which can include domestic violence, poverty, abuse, drug use, alcoholism, and other challenges. It may also be triggered by situations at school which overwhelm them or cause intense emotions. Children such as these need to learn how to self-regulate themselves, and this is where a comfort room comes into play. How to create a comfort room in schools is a much debated topic, but we will focus on some of the aspects to look at in creating one.
How to Create a Comfort Room in Schools
The main focus of a comfort room would be to look at a multi-sensory based approach which has been proven to be effective in reducing high levels of stress. The first step is to find a space near to where the children who may use it would be. The second is to discuss with the relevant parties the various aspects and uses of your particular comfort room.
A budget would need to be determined and various sensory objects would need to be acquired to assist in creating the comfort room. Comforting tools will include aspects such as lights, pressure mats, rocking chairs, swings, and so forth. Let us look at specific aspects of sensory-based comfort rooms that can be used. Be sure to check out a list of many of these here for ease when setting up your comfort room.
Weighted vests, lap pads, weighted blankets or cocoon swings are good for comfort and solace. Couches and cushions should be available for relaxation.
A weighted neck wrap, which may also include aromatherapy scents can be beneficial and can also include the option of being cold or heated. You can also use different textures in the pressure blankets and lap pads to increase tactile sensations.
Movement and exercise
Swings, exercise balls, and exercise bands can be included to be used to let off steam or as another form of pressure.
Soft ambient music, nature sounds, and white noise are particularly soothing. Music should be at a rate of 60 beats per minute or less. There may also be an area which includes drums and other musical instruments.
Aromatherapy can be used in the form of diffusers, scented lotions or even drops on tactile toys or pressure objects. Make sure that the scents used do not stimulate adverse reactions in some children due to memory traces. Choose scents that stimulate calm and relaxation.
These include books, art supplies, puzzles, and tactile toys such as play dough, clay, and stress balls. Tactile toys can be of various shapes, sizes and textures. A wall can be painted with chalkboard paint to allow children to draw on the walls as a creative outlet. Meditation is also an effective tool as well as guided imagery for certain children. A fish tank with low lighting is also a good visual stimulation source which is very calming, but someone would need to maintain it and it would need to be setup so that children cannot tamper with the water or the fish.
Things to avoid
Some of the things that should be avoided include sharp corners, items that cannot be seen easily and can be bumped against or fallen over, and items that can be picked up or thrown. A windowless room is preferable or one that has window coverings that cannot be pulled down. Avoid hooks, long cords, and any items that can be used to self-harm or cause damage or injury.
Staff should be well versed in calming techniques and the use of comfort rooms. Discussions should focus on the strengths of the child and not the shortcomings. When talking to the child, maintain appropriate eye contact and keep a calm tone of voice. Comfort room supervisors should be patient, encouraging, compassionate, reassuring, and be able to help the child work through their emotions and behaviors. Language used should be age appropriate.
What Is the Purpose of a Comfort Room?
Comfort rooms are designed to help reduce tension and assist the child with developing personal coping skills so that they can maintain control in triggering situations. The aim is to empower the children with a space in which to practice self-directed behaviors. The room should also be a safe haven to develop skills and techniques to manage emotions and behaviors. This should then empower the child to self-soothe and enforce self-control inside and outside the comfort room.
What Should a Comfort Room Be Used For?
The comfort room should be a place where the child can voluntarily go and should not be used as a punishment or a reward. The room should also not be used as seclusion or containment or as an alternative to restraint. The room should be supervised by people who are trained in the supervision and use of comfort rooms, and who are available to assist the children in managing and working through their behaviors. A comfort room should be about relationship building and self-regulation, and to assist the child in learning self-control.
This should give you the basics on how to create a comfort room in your school. Comfort rooms should not be used for extended periods of time and supervisors should set timers to inform the children when their time in the comfort room is up. This can range from 5 minutes to 15 minutes, depending on the child and their individual situations. A comfort room can improve behaviors as well as increase the learning potential of children. Comfort rooms may even be used by staff if they find the need to get in touch with their emotions during a particularly stressful time.
INcompassing Education provides on-site, off-site, and online professional development for educators. Check out our webinar series, “Supporting Students of Trauma” and “Supporting Mental Health in Schools.” Upgrade your skills as a teacher and earn professional growth points (credits) for your continuing education. To know more, like our Facebook page, INcompassing Education LLC, or send us a message through our contact page.