Wayland— Last Thursday was a cause for celebration as the Wayland-Cohocton school presented their multi-sensory environment, the first in a New York state public school.
“We’re very pleased to have this opening,” said Way-Co superintendent Mike Wetherbee. “We’re excited for the opportunities this will bring our students.”
The MSE was approved by the Way-Co board of education in the summer of 2012 and Jackie Hughes, Rob Hughes, Jennifer Sullivan, Jim Sullivan, Stan Konopko, Mike Wetherbee, Cora Saxton, Linda Mess, Eilen Fied and Michelle DeGraff all began working to develop the MSE.
A multi-sensory environment provides positive development for children with special needs through sensory relaxation. Children with autism spectrum disorder see the MSE as a safe environment to learn to interact with their surroundings. For children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the MSE acts as a tool to help harness concentration and focus. The MSE can also provide an outlet to center their emotions and learn new useful coping strategies for children with emotional and behavioral disorders.
Inspired by teacher Jackie and Rob Hughes’ daughter Lauren, a seventh grader at Way-Co, her aunt Jenn Sullivan, CEO of St. James Mercy Hospital, reached out to Linda Messbauer. Messbauer is one of the founders of the American Association of Multi-Sensory Environment and the developer of the first MSE in the United States in 1992.
“I did this for my niece,” said Sullivan. “That’s her name on the door, she inspired this whole project.”
The team set up a fundraising goal of $25,000 but raised well over that thanks to the compassion of the community and local businesses. The Gunlocke Company agreed to match the school $12,500 which was instrumental in building the MSE.
Messbauer, who designed Way-Co’s MSE, was astounded at the community support and hopes this can be a model for schools across the country.
“This community is amazing, they’ve been so much help,” she said. “Hopefully this will take off, an MSE is much better than a play room.”
Messbauer explained that the MSE stimulates the students brian, often without them even realizing, and relaxes them both during and after school.
“Parents will call and say their child, who use to have trouble falling asleep, will fall right to sleep with no problem,” she said. “That’s because of the stimulation they receive here.”
She spent part of the summer training members of the Way-Co staff on how to run the control panel for the MSE, an important aspect of the success of the room.Jackie Hughes is confident the hard work of the team and the donors is going to be what makes this room a success.
“Everyone was a huge help,” she said. “This is going to work.”