Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2019

For people who live with autism, ADHD, PTSD, OCD, or other sensory issues, coping with the stresses of everyday life can be a struggle.

Lord Fairfax Community College Anatomy and Physiology Professor Ramon Selove knows first-hand. Selove, on the autism spectrum, has taught at LFCC nearly three decades.

“The struggle can be different for people who are neuro-diverse. Many times for us, the struggle is less about the academic side and more about the social side,” says Selove.

LFCC student Daniel Rioux (left) and Professor Ramon Selove

As advisor for a social club for students on the spectrum, the Bureau of Neuro-Diversity (BOND), Selove advocates for the needs of students who sometimes need a place of quiet sanctuary, where they can try to control what they often experience as an overwhelming level of sensory input. People with sensory issues sometimes have difficulty filtering out unwanted input and focusing on what needs attention.

For students who need that haven, LFCC has opened a sensory break room on its Middletown campus, a small space is stocked with a rocking chair, bean bag chairs, weighted blankets, a stability cushion, noise-canceling headphones, a white noise machine, a cushioned mat, and numerous tactile manipulatives. The lighting in the room is soft, and can be dimmed.

“Most of it was like what sort of sensory toys would we need, what sort of environment are we looking for,” said BOND member Daniel Rioux. “I think the size is good,” he adds. “Sometimes a big room can have kind of an opposite effect to providing a break. Smaller spaces help to sort of cocoon you and make you feel a little bit more grounded.”

Selove passes out cards with the break room’s number and door code to students he thinks can benefit from it.

And LFCC disability services coordinator Viviane Meder has shared the sensory room information with dozens of students she serves.

“The room is visited every day,” she says. “We have some students who use it every time they come to campus. I think it is a wonderful resource, and I’m so pleased that LFCC was open to the idea of making such a space available for our students.

“We are ordering additional items to make the room even more inviting and innovative – some of our students are using these items for the first time in their academic careers.”

To learn more, read the LFCC news release here.'

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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