In our trauma-informed classrooms blog post last week, we talked about choices. We mentioned the benefit of having a space in the room where a child can go to help them calm down and become regulated. While this has become increasingly common at the elementary level, we have found that this is a tool that can work for students of all ages. Even when we survey adults about the things that help them to calm down when they are upset, one of the most common answers we hear is that they want time and space. These are both things that aren't consistently available to students within a school setting. We highly recommend creating a space where students can go to when they feel frustrated, angry, upset, etc.
Some of the basic components of calming/peace corners:
1. Proximity- we know some classrooms are quite small, but even a couple feet further from other students can go a long way in providing some additional sense of safety. Also, when possible, some obstruction that shields the student from most of the other students in the classroom helps. Obviously, you need to keep your eyes on the student, but the less the students feel like someone is watching them, the more they should be able to relax and regulate.
2. Comfort- Provide some sort of comfortable seat, as well as some tools that can help the student to relax. This can be some form of flexible seating, a spot with coloring books (adult coloring books for older students), fidgets, calming music, blankets, and/or weighted equipment. The fear is that this seems like a reward, but the reality is that these spaces are tools to help a student prepare to handle the stressors of school.
3. Timer- About five minutes should be a sufficient amount of time to re-set and get back to class. Use some type of visual timer (avoid the beep sound, which can be triggering). I like sand timers but there are lots of options. With this in mind, encourage a student to get back to class after the timer is up, but also allow them to transition back to the calming corner as soon as they feel they need it again. If you feel that a student is monopolizing the area or over-using it, touch base with them privately at the end of the day to make a more specific plan.
One of the primary concerns that often comes up with calming corners is that students who do not need it will use it, or that students will misuse or over-use it. We highly recommend opening it up to all students at first. While there are likely some students who you know could benefit from it, we never know which students are barely hanging on, and could use the opportunity to calm down. Additionally, it is ok to place rules and parameters around tools like this, but if you start out by only allowing certain students to use it, it will create a stigma to using it, and the area is likely to go underutilized or have an adverse effect. As with any change, it may take some time to incorporate this into the normal culture of the classroom, but it is worth that effort. As students realize that you want them in the room, and that you are willing to bend over backwards to keep them in the room, this will improve their attitude towards you and school, providing an impact that truly cannot be measured.
Reach out to Alexandra Murtaugh, NeuroLogic Specialist at NeuroLogic by Lakeside-- AMurtaugh@lakesidelink.com