New sensory room for Sherman special needs students

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SHERMAN, TEXAS -- In February, Sherman ISD got a new tool to help children with special needs communicate with the world around them. A sensory room that serves as a place to learn, and overcome challenges many of us can't even imagine. We talked with one family who says it's helping their autistic son to do things they didn't know were possible.

Welcome to the sensory room at Fred Douglass Early Childhood Center in Sherman.

This is where 4-year-old Nathan Adams spends much of his school day. From swinging, to playing with interactive toys, to jumping in the ball pit with other kids. His father Jeff says the sensory input is helping Nathan in a number of ways.

"It's taught him to communicate that, I need to touch something, I need to have a certain kind of a texture. Being able to understand he can get that message across to us has really opened up a lot of other doors," said Jeff Adams.

Nathan is just one of the children who use this room, which was created by special ed teacher, Pam Bellerman.

"We have all kinds of things in the room for them to shake and touch and drop and mess around in," Bellerman said.

For more than 30 years, Bellerman has worked with special needs students. Inspired by her own son, who is autistic and severely brain damaged, she has drawn on her experience to develop this therapeutic space.

"For a child who's brain damaged, or a child with autism, it helps them integrate themselves," said Bellerman. "It kinda helps them handle the world."

Pediatrician, Dr.Tim Brumit says the medical community is seeing more and more cases of autism and they don't know why. But he says sensory therapy, like what goes on in this very room, can definitely help autistic kids.

"The input they are receiving from tactile stimulation is in some way a means of communicating with them," Dr. Brumit said.

Funded by a grant and her own money, Bellerman made this room a reality.

"He's playing, he's talking, saying no and stop...of course," said Desiree Adams, Nathan's mom.

And it's that progress that motivates Bellerman to continue to improve the sensory room, and her hope to create more rooms like this throughout SISD.

"Things like this will encourage a child to do things they wouldn't normally do," Bellerman said.

"Even since coming here, he's started more back and forth play," Jeff Adam said. "We were laying in bed the other night and I was tickling him, and he tickled me, and I was like oh my goodness, that's so awesome, Nathan just doesn't interact with us that way. It's been amazing."

The sensory room at Fred Douglass is the only one of it's kind in the district. But Bellerman hopes to change that. She has already received a grant from Sherman Education Foundation to improve this sensory room next year, and hopes to be able to create more like it at other schools in the future.