Maitai School’s Emily Smith, left, and Jane Wills give the bubble-tube in the new sensory room a trial run on Monday. Photo: Simon Bloomberg.

New sights, sounds and smells for students


Maitai School students will benefit from an innovative new classroom designed to help them control their sensory environment to create a better space for learning.

After four years of planning and development, the Nelson special needs school opened its new Wahi Tairongo, or sensory room, on Tuesday.

The hi-tech room allows students to control the sounds, sights and smells they experience, which principal Jane Wills says has a big impact on their ability to learn.

“Many of our students have difficulty making sense of the things they are experiencing and that can be overwhelming,” Jane says.

“Being able to control what they hear, see and feel can help them calm down so they can benefit from more effective classroom learning.”

Jane says the sensory room will also be able to help stimulate those students who have difficulty recognising senses.

“They might play upbeat music or watch a colourful visual experience and that can help them learn.”

The school’s occupational therapist Emily Smith will be showing staff how to use the room which includes a massage chair, colourful bubble tube, audio-visual equipment and ultra-violet light dark-room. All the equipment can be controlled by the students using simple, colour-coded remote controls.

Emily visited schools that are already using sensory rooms to get some ideas for Maitai School’s new classroom and says the technology is highly successful.

“It can be calming or alerting, depending on the specific needs of the students, and it’s a really good learning space,” Emily says. “We want our students to be excellent and this will help them achieve that goal.”

Jane says the new classroom was funded by the board of trustees’ reserve funds.