BELOIT, Ohio (WYTV) – When Karen Harris’ son Erik died in a plane crash, the special needs educator thought of a unique way to use the donations given to her family.
Harris founded “Erik’s Room,” a multi-sensory room for students with special needs, which began at Alliance-area elementary schools. On Wednesday, Knox Elementary School in Beloit opened its own Erik’s Room.
“We see the need for teaching through multi-sensory approaches and teaching through engagement, so the student is engaged in learning and it kind of tricks them to want to learn,” Harris said of her reasons for starting the program.
The room at Knox Elementary School is filled with bright colors and activities designed for students, who can use their senses while they learn. There are even black lights to help students with autism keep calm.
Stephen Fowler, principal of Knox Elementary School, said many people don’t consider how special needs students may be affected by their environments.
“Even something as simple as the humming of these lights can set off a child with autism, so this is a way for them just to try to bring themselves back down,” he said.
Erik’s Room also contains a ball pit and a rock wall, so it can be utilized by others as well. Teachers say they will use the room as an incentive for good behavior in the classroom.
“I would bring small groups of students who earned a special incentive, so it was more of a positive reward, but also if one or two students were starting to escalate, you could bring them to Erik’s Room to deescalate,” Harris said.