Brittany Burzinski and Nate Wahl were college classmates at the University of Illinois and had always wanted to work together on a project once they started their teaching careers. The Collaborative Grant they received from CUSF gave them that opportunity. Brittany is a Functional Life Skills teacher at Stratton Elementary in Champaign and Nate is an Emotional/Behavior Disorder specialist at Yankee Ridge Elementary in Urbana.
In their own special education classrooms, they work with sensory supports daily, however when students transition into the general education classrooms there were none of these materials for students to utilize. They also believed that sensory supports could be beneficial for the general education students as well.
Sensory support materials include things like visual timers, hand fidgets, bouncy bands on chair legs, squishy balls and more. These devices when used properly allow students to self-regulate their behavior so that they are able to remain in the classroom and continue learning.
Brittany and Nate recruited professionals from The Autism Program at the U of I to help train the general education classroom teachers on how to use the materials. The collaborative grant they received allowed them to purchase a classroom set of these materials for every classroom at both Stratton and Yankee Ridge.
Brittany and Nate received great feedback about many of the materials. The visual timers were the most popular, one teacher commented “This has been amazing! Kids are more aware of time limits and ask fewer questions about when they need to clean up, etc.” The bouncy bands were also helpful; teachers appreciated that students could use the bands while working at their desk. Teachers reported that the materials were very beneficial to helping students stay engaged in learning–and manage their behaviors.