Little Oliver He still does not know, but thanks to him, the children of the Kindergarten “F.lli Canova” of Istituto Comprivo 1 in San Lazzaro di Savena, municipality of the metropolitan city of Bologna, they have a sensory room made of lights, music and games to stimulate relationships and learning through the senses. Thanks to his parents, Daniela and Lorenzo, and those who believed in their initiative, which began from the couple’s need to understand how to help their child communicate and communicate, even at school, through the body.
The boy, who is six years old and has two brothers younger than 4 years old, has a rare alteration in the STXBP1 gene, which does not allow him to express his basic needs and creates difficulties in perceptual and motor regulation. But he “feels” the body, through sensory stimulation that comes to it from the outside. “Even if social exchanges are not easy for Oliver, to communicate with him, he must adjust his feelings,” said his mother Daniela, who is also part of the Council for Overcoming Disability Municipal San Lazaro and founder of the association STXBP1 Italia, to support those affected and families. “His story changed my life for the better, melancholy turned into something vital,” he explains again, “when it’s hard, it takes a lot of imagination to find ways to live better. If you go back to being a child with him, certain things can become beautiful.” And the flowers of a lot of effort, which includes a rehabilitation process with Israeli therapists that began when Oliver was only one year old, is beginning to blossom. “In March 2022, Oliver got up alone for the first time,” Daniela continues.
It is also essential that the child is able to fully know and experience outside the home, in environments and situations in which he can relate to his peers. “At school there was no place designated for his needs, where he could do certain activities and work in a small group of two or three children,” the mother continues, “so we thought of an environment that was not just for him, but also for other children, even the disabled.” In their research, Oliver’s parents met Mundo Snoezelen, an Italian center associated with the global Isna-Mse reality that brings together participants in the Snoezelen method. This peculiar term, snoelezen, is derived from two Dutch words crash meaning snuffelen, energize (snuffelen) and relax (doezelen) and refers to a pedagogical/fun/re-educational style that involves a participant-operator relationship in a stimulating environment: the senses, sight, touch, smell, hearing, Self-reception (the ability to perceive one’s own body in space), to promote well-being, accompany sensory-motor and psycho-relational development, allow people with disabilities to carry out activities or with learning difficulties, and facilitate and facilitate integration among participants. After this “discovery”, the Oliver family decided to propose to the school the installation of a working room based on this method. “After speaking with the principal, I called school counselor Benedetta Simone and in February 2021 the ‘machine’ started to move,” Daniela explains, “I wanted to make sure that the public school became the carrier of inclusive spaces and styles.”
Lights, Settings, Smells & Games
The wonders of this underkammer Ludic-pedagogical is both technological and child-friendly, with many stimuli of the vocal, visual, olfactory, vibratory, tactile and vestibular parts, affecting the cognitive, relational and motor domains. It is a welcoming being that moves in unison. There is an interactive ball set that lights up when a sound is made or changes color according to the rhythm of speech, and there is a swing to work on spatial perception. There is an oil painting projector, which displays scenarios and settings of all kinds, for every need. Oliver’s mother explains, “Sensory stimulation is great for children and allows people with disabilities to share real experiences, making the relationship stronger for everyone.” “This project is everyone’s legacy, and it’s important to convey a sense of place.”
“You learn with all your senses, Kindergarten kids have experiences with the body to learn even the most educational concepts,” Oliver’s support teacher Barbara Russo explains. To create a situation in which it is easy to initiate contact between the little ones, use the room with Oliver and another child. Thanks to this room, Oliver’s companions can enter his ‘world’, the realm of body perception. There are many ways to stimulate the senses and the ability to express oneself and are suitable for children. The settings, along with the music and scents, allow for a true familiarity with the place. “Once I made the snow appear,” continues the teacher, “and Oliver was so fascinated by the flakes that he tried to touch them,” as if they were real. The most important and educational is the remote control developed by the Regional Help Center connected to the set of colored balls. “With this remote control, Oliver can make decisions when playing with balls and understand the cause-and-effect relationship,” he explains. “The idea of the classroom is to create a sense of well-being in facilitating situations in a way that enables them to understand themselves and to experience and develop relational and cognitive skills,” explains teacher and Curl Coordinator Zelinda Davolio. “I let the children play with the items to help them find language to express shared feelings” – he continues – “in a space open to many experiences, from scenarios to mini-documentaries, from tactile tiles that light up to projections of images that have a calming effect.” Davolio explains that this is the meaning of the method gentle teachingaccompanying the child to discovery, in this case it can be achieved thanks to both physical expertise and the novelty and diversity of the proposals offered by technology.
“We believed in this initiative because it pursues a very valuable purpose: to give opportunities to children with disabilities,” says Interris.it, the first city in San Lazaro Isabella Conte. “In our municipality we started investing in solutions to deliver childhood disabilities in 2014 and today we allocate €2 million to ensure that teachers can follow the little ones even in the afternoon, when they are at home. This sensory room fits into this hierarchy of values”, continues the mayor. He adds: “It is necessary to strive for excellence in the public sector, to ensure rights, quality of life and prospects for all. I also hope that other sensory rooms will be created in the Bologna metropolitan area and in ours.”
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