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New sensory room at Robstown ISD helps students with autism

Posted at 1:47 PM, May 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-20 18:42:26-04

A Robstown Elementary School just finished designing a new sensory room. This room is going to help students across the Coastal Bend who have autism.

The new room at Robert Driscoll Elementary has bubble columns and even a sensory wall. It’s what dreams are made of for autistic students and their parents.

“It’s such a huge win that they were able to do this and it means so much,” said Sonia Marines, the mother of 9-year-old Valentina.

There’s a need for a room like this because Robstown ISD says there are 25 children with autism in the district’s pre-kindergarten through third-grade classes.

Everything inside the sensory room is designed with a purpose. For example, a slide allows students to play and move around, but it also allows students to interact with one another.

“Some of our kids need to relax and calm down, whereas some just need to get what we call, the wiggles out,” said Laura Zimmerman, a speech and language pathologist teacher at the district.

One side of the classroom looks like an indoor playground, while the other is a place for kids to unwind.

It’s all for students like Valentina, whose mother tells us this room will help her daughter focus.

“Being in a regular classroom, sometimes there’s things that kind of distract her that might not distract another child,” Marines said.

The room is part of a pilot project paid for by a grant from the Texas Education Agency. While Robstown ISD leaders hope other districts will follow, Valentina’s mom says it’s already making a difference in her daughter’s life.

“It’s done wonders for her,” said Marines. “She loves sensory rooms so I’m so excited.”

The $1 million grant was awarded at the beginning of the school year, and Robstown ISD just got more exciting news.

The grant was renewed for another year, which means the district will get an additional $1 million. The district plans to share that money with nine other school districts in the Coastal Bend: Agua Dulce ISD, Aransas County ISD, Aransas Pass ISD, Benavides ISD, Bishop ISD, Ingleside ISD, Port Aransas ISD, San Diego ISD and Sinton ISD.