10 Must-Have Items for A Special Needs Classroom

The most important mission for a special education teacher is their promise to each student in their classroom, the best education possible. Every school year brings new challenges but to help you prepare for day one it’s important to have the right equipment in your classroom.  Classroom success can begin with the right preparation.   

So where do you start?   The good thing is this list has a wealth of information to help special needs teachers set up the most efficient classroom. Apart from the staplers and laminators and usual supplies that every teacher needs here is a list of some great items that your classroom will want to consider.

#1: REST by GAIT LLC

This small therapeutic chair will do miracles for children that have difficulty relaxing and finding focus in their classroom.  The REST (Responsive Equine Simulator Therapy) chair which is already used in school districts and many medical offices helps calm children with special needs by simply mimicking a horse’s gait.  

The chair fits so easily into any classroom with the added benefit of being quiet and portable for teachers to move around effortlessly. The equine motion of the chair can help children with a variety of special needs. Mobility, posture, coordination, behavioral skills, and communication skills are just a few of the improvements teachers have experienced with their students. With consistent use of the chair, teachers and medical professionals have seen vast increases in development.  From better posture to behavioral and cognitive skills, the chair’s equine movements have been a huge success for each classroom.  

The best part – the chair is more manageable and cheaper than having to upkeep a horse with a hefty price!

#2: SENSORY WHEEL

This colorful textured sensory wheel will fit perfectly in any special needs classroom.  The wheel is used as an activity for calming children down.  What makes this sensory wheel different than many others – it’s bright, full of textures, and big enough for children to explore.  A variety of game options can be viewed on this page, to help you gauge what motor and gross skills can be gained.  

If the above wheel seems too pricey, many classrooms and homes have also designed their own sensory wheels and walls for a lot less.  Here is a great link on how you might be able to create your own.

#3: WEIGHTED VESTS

The weighted vest is exactly that – a weighted vest.  The vest helps children with sensory processing or self-regulation disorders, by providing a deep touch pressure. It has many proven benefits from increasing focus, to reducing anxiety to better body awareness and less hyperactivity.  

Keeping a vest in the classroom can help with any hurdles that might occur during the day. For more benefits of weighted vests along with helpful tips on the best vest for your classroom, the Harkla website can point you in the right direction

#4: MATS

Falls can happen anywhere, especially in a classroom when students have spread around.  To help prevent these “ouchies” mats have been a savior to many teachers and students.  Not only that, but it’s great for exercise, break time, or even class gatherings. 

Mats can be placed anywhere in the classroom, and even folded up when not in use.  There is an abundance of gym mats out there that can help your room look more colorful and bright depending on your need.  A great place to start your search is here, on the Especial Needs website.  Also, many stores such as Target and Walmart will carry mats as well.

#5: HEADPHONES 

Noise can cause a ton of anxiety for some children in a school environment.  That’s why headphones are a great compliment to a classroom.  Headphones can be a hit or miss for some special needs children but don’t let that deter you from keeping some headphones in the classroom.  

Some students might find an issue with something in their ear, or some might not want their ear covered.  That’s why headphones might be a struggle for some students, but with practice, the noise-canceling headphone will prove a further advantage.  

For some tips on how to navigate headphones in your classroom, this article here has some great guidelines.  If your want to review some headphones, the Fun and Function website has some great options.

#6: TIMER

Keeping time in a special needs classroom is “oh so important” for functionality.  Moving from one subject to another is difficult for children with special needs.  Anxiety, tension, nervousness all combined in one can be overwhelming.

That’s why visual timers are so handy for teachers and students to use when they are moving thru throughout the day.  Not only do they help tell time, but the visualization of time helps the child judge how much time is left.  A clock that visualizes that the student only has two minutes left, will help prepare them for what’s to come next.  Transitions will become much easier.  Today there is a load of timers to choose from with a variety of prices.  The best choices I found were thru this website Friendship Circle, which lists out various types.

#7: FIDGETS

Fidget tools are a must-have for children that have a sensory overload and need to vent out any frustration.  Unlike fidget spinners that can be distracting, a fidget toy can help provide stress relief.  It also helps with mobility or gross-motor skills.  Fidgets are not texture-oriented like slime, putty, or even kinetic sand. The toys can come in different colors and shapes for children to choose from.  So ideally keeping a box of various fidget toys will work well for that required downtime or sensory overloads.  To look at a variety of toys to fill your basket with check out some useful toys here.

#8: SENSORY SWINGS

A sensory swing can be thought of as a little place for a child to feel safe.  It’s not a regular swing that you would see in a park but a swing that is similar to swaddling.   When the child sits in the swing, it simulates a deep hug, which helps the child overcome any anxiety they might be having.  

Any little corner or nook of a classroom can be so beneficial for you to set up a swing.   Therapy swings can come in different types at a variety of costs.  Harkla has some great swing options to check out if you want to create that corner of relief. However if you want to really dive deep into the reasoning behind swings and why they work so well, check out this article on Friendship Circle.

#9: BODY SOCK

Just like the swing,  the body sock is basically a big sock that hugs the child’s entire body.  Another type of swaddle.  It is a stretchy, see-thru fabric that the child can play with.  It’s important for the child to play in the body sock so they can see how they fit into space and identify with their body.

On top of being super fun, the child can stretch it in many positions and shapes which in turn also helps with deep pressure input and heavyweight.  There are a ton of ways to engage children in the sock so that they start to feel comfortable in their space.  Although the sock might look a little strange as it is similar to a huge swaddle, it has brought a ton of therapeutic advantages to many. 

#10: TRAMPOLINE

How high can you jump?  Trampoline therapy has been very useful for kids with high anxiety in the classroom.  There is not much to it, but just like some people need a good workout before starting the day, the trampoline acts in the same way.  It helps refocus the mind and keep any anxiety at par.  On top of being a great exercise, it’s fun and engaging for children to do.  However, since trampolines can be dangerous, always supervise and implement proper practices before the school year begins.  Also, keep that floor mat not far from you. If you need to purchase one Amazon,  Target or Walmart can give you a variety of choices with different price ranges!

We know that classroom equipment for teachers and schools can really carry a hefty price tag.  With each school year there is a learning curve for both the child and teacher, so keep in mind that the list above is a start to your classroom creation for success. Here’s to a hopeful start to your next school year!

REST: Because it works

It’s time to put REST into your life. And take advantage of all of the benefits equine motion has to offer any time, any place. At Gait, we firmly believe it will be a powerful, rewarding, and effective tool for helping treat your special needs child, children, or adult.

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