Reporter: [00:00:00] It's that time of the year. Pencils pens desks chalkboard the traditional items you expect in a classroom.
Reporter: [00:00:05] But what about a ball pit swing and rope ladder. Those are some of the tools of a sensory room.
Reporter: [00:00:13] And as Kari Drew tells us they are popping up in schools throughout our area right now. Yeah.
Reporter: [00:00:18] Lori and Rossanna a good morning to both of you. The sights and sounds of a typical school can be overwhelming for many kids with special needs so now some schools are offering what's called sensory rooms or sensory gyms they're designed with hands on activities for kids to engage their senses. And they're also helping students to overcome obstacles.
Sarah: [00:00:36] There you go, go to green go to green.
Reporter: [00:00:38] It's a chance for kids to just be kids and learn some life changing skills along the way.
Sarah: [00:00:47] Everybody hold their thumb up, Joseph where's your thumb. Ryan's got it. Joe just got it.
Reporter: [00:00:52] This is no ordinary gym class.
Sarah: [00:00:55] You can do it. Yeah.
Reporter: [00:00:58] It's a sensory gym at P.S. 15 in Red Hook.
Reporter: [00:01:01] It's almost like learning in 3-D would be a way you could describe it.
Reporter: [00:01:05] It's changing the lives of children with developmental delays and behavioral disorders.
Sarah: [00:01:10] They have all these opportunities to be in a variety of planes of movement. They can be high. They can be low. They have to go over obstacles.
Reporter: [00:01:18] Sarah Baluch is an occupational therapist with the New York City Department of Education.
Sarah: [00:01:24] Let's go. Pinch clap , pinch clap.
Reporter: [00:01:27] She explains how each hands on activity from a colorful ball pit. To a swing just inches off the ground. It. Allows kids to work on movement and speech by engaging their senses.
Sarah: [00:01:41] Everything that they can touch feels different.
Sarah: [00:01:43] You have ropes which are rough. You have balls which are smooth.
Sarah: [00:01:48] We have kids that you know maybe came in really uncoordinated with difficulty with stairs just to put it in like a real life setting. Interacting with this material it helps them develop the skill of walking. The skill of stair climbing stair descending.
Reporter: [00:02:03] Medical research on the effectiveness of sensory rooms on children with special needs is limited but small scale trials show they help children especially those with autism.
Sarah: [00:02:14] A lot of children who are coming to this program are also from disadvantaged backgrounds where they don't have access to a lot of enriching experiences. On top of which they have a delay or an intellectual disability. There's kids who have coordination difficulties and by engaging with this material here you can have the opportunity to become stronger to become more coordinated.
Reporter: [00:02:38] I saw you on the swing before. Is that your favorite.
Child: [00:02:41] Yeah.
Reporter: [00:02:43] You like the ball pit. How come
Child: [00:02:45] It's so fun.
Reporter: [00:02:46] These kids are also reaching major life milestones. One of the students who was nonverbal is now speaking.
Sarah: [00:02:53] He's saying full sentences. He is saying definitely the parts of a sentence you know like "I'm going fast."
Sarah: [00:03:00] All of the adults working with these children are just like blown away because it's amazing to see.
Reporter: [00:03:07] A program for kids with special needs called Extreme Kids and Crew partnered with the city's Department of Education to create this space.
Caitlin: [00:03:14] It just felt like we could be here and just in building this space provide the OTs (occupational therapist) and the PTS (physical therapist) with a facility that they would never be able to get on their own.
Reporter: [00:03:27] Caitlin Cassaro is the executive director of the non-profit and she's also the mother of a child with special needs.
Caitlin: [00:03:34] My son's autistic and incredibly awesome. We felt very alone and finding that community was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. And I know for a lot of people who come in our doors.
Reporter: [00:03:47] Once inside these doors the kids overcome obstacles and the friendships formed along the way makes it even more special.
Sarah: [00:03:56] They form the sweetest most loving bonds the type of connection and a type of acceptance that we see them having for each other and looking out for each other. It's totally inspiring and inspires me every day.
Reporter: [00:04:12] Really an incredible place and Extreme Kids and Crew does have another sensory gym it's located at P.S. 71 in Queens. Now all these facilities are open to everyone in the community on the weekends from 1 to 4 p.m.. So it's really cool. They can check it out. Good day will be right back.