Park Avenue Displays Appeal to the Senses

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To mark Autism Awareness Month, students at Park Avenue Elementary School created sensory walls throughout the first floor.

Park Avenue houses the district’s TEACCH program, which serves about 25 students with autism from kindergarten through sixth grade. Principal Robyn Santiago said that the school fosters an inclusive environment for the children, who take part in all school activities and programs. Several students from fourth through sixth grade classes serves as buddies for the TEACCH students by reading with them or playing together during recess. 

The sensory walls were created by students in the afterschool art and gaming clubs. They decorated several bulletin boards with spring-themed displays and objects that students and staff were encouraged to touch. 

On one board, children made clouds from cups, foam balls, paper plates and string. Another featured butterflies with colorful textured paint designs. There were sunflowers with gems and cut-up tissue on paper plates underneath a paper chain rainbow. A paper-plate caterpillar stretched across one bulletin board with a different texture on each circle. 

Ms. Santiago noted that while the puzzle piece is the traditional symbol for autism, the school created a different display. Every child at Park Avenue traced his or her hand on construction paper. The cut-out hands were put together on a wall to form a pair of wings, with just the right sized gap in between so students could take photos in front of it.

“We’re all individual pieces, we’re all unique,” she said, “but put us together and we create these beautiful wings.”