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Ruth Betts school opens new sensory room with community support

Ruth Betts Community School now has a new tool to help teach kids with exceptional needs - thanks in part to a pair of generous donors.
C51 Sensory Room
Pat and Dennis Hyndman (centre and right, joined by stuffed toy sloth) hold a plaque given to them by the Flin Flon School Division for their work in helping open the new sensory room at Ruth Betts Community School.

Ruth Betts Community School now has a new tool to help teach kids with exceptional needs - thanks in part to a pair of generous donors.

The school has officially opened a new sensory room, geared towards helping kids get acquainted with sensory input in a controlled environment.

“Around the start of last year, we realized we had a lot of students who could benefit from it. As the year progressed, we realized that the need is really necessary,” said Ruth Betts vice-principal Mike McLellan.

To raise money to get the room built, McLellan worked the community group circuit, seeking funds and support. It was through that grind that the project came across Dennis and Pat Hyndman, who were immediately on board.

“I reached out to some local kind of fundraiser people, groups, clubs. Word of mouth spread it from there and Dennis and Pat caught wind of it and they thought it would be a great idea,” McLellan said.

After hearing of the project, the vice-principal said the Hyndmans helped push the project forward.

“They said that they wanted to give back to the community and do something big, that they would donate everything that we were asking for to see this project go through,” said McLellan.

“We wanted to have it up and running for the fall, so we quickly got a bunch of stuff and had flooring installed, the wall put in and the rest is history.”

A sensory room includes lights, colours, sounds, soft play objects and the like to allow kids to explore their own sense in a controlled, therapeutic environment. Sensory rooms are aimed toward children with special education needs, including students on the autism spectrum.

“It’s therapeutic in nature. Students who kind of need a break, a calm space, can use it as needed,” said McLellan.

“There’s a lot of tactile activities in there, some gross motor, fine motor activities, as well as a dark space with some lighting, visual and auditory sensations, that kind of thing. It is geared toward students with exceptional needs, but anyone can use it.”

The nearest sensory room to Flin Flon was previously in Swan River.

“We have had an influx of students with exceptional needs who would really benefit from having a calm space in the school,” said McLellan.

The plan, once COVID-19 restrictions allow and the project is fully finished, is to allow community members in to access the room outside school hours. McLellan said he feels such a space could have a positive impact on the community.

“Once we’re allowed to, we’d like to allow community members to use it and for students who need respite, they can go there after hours and make it a community space,” he said.

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