Side By Side Special School is a community school for children aged 2-19. Based in London, they support the learning and development of its diverse community of pupils, all with Educational, Health & Care Plans (EHCP) and additional needs.
In the summer of 2022, the trust head of Side By Side School contacted our sensory team with an exciting proposal.
Inspired by a newly awarded grant, Side By Side wanted to expand their school and develop a new £11.6m state-of-the-art campus to better support their students’ needs and increase their capacity from 80 to 150 pupils.
It was important that the new building would be open and accessible for all of the school’s students, no matter their age or needs – which is where our sensory team got involved. We were asked to design, collaborate and instal multiple sensory spaces that would cater to and support the whole Side By Side school community.
Sensory Project Design Brief
- Create inclusive sensory spaces that are accessible to all
- Design adaptable areas that can be used by Side by Side’s youngest and oldest students
- Inspire play, learning and connection
To meet Side By Side’s multi-sensory needs, we took a holistic multi-room approach to the project, designing and developing four unique sensory spaces.
Not only would we provide a space for every student to explore their senses, but we’d also facilitate wider access to sensory support throughout the day, creating a safe, collaborative and playful school environment perfect for learning.
Soft Play Room
We designed the Soft Play Room for exploration and comfort. Cosy lilac safety padding decorates the floor and walls, creating a soft canvas for play and a calming colour for visual stimulation/distraction.
Students have space to move and put their motor skills to the test as they climb up the steps and walk across the platform tunnels before sliding down and making a splash in the ball pool!
The space can be used by groups of students for social sessions to develop skills together in a controlled environment. While individual students can be guided by a teacher in personal development sessions, calmly building bodily awareness with the Bodyrocker or laying back and stimulating their proprioceptive systems on the vibrant vibrating bumpers.
Dreams and wonder inspired Side by Side’s Sensory Room. We designed the space for students to escape busy classrooms and find comfort in a cosy area that warms their bodies, minds and emotions.
Dreams: Students can lay back on the musical waterbed and experience music immersively as they feel their favourite songs vibrate through the water mattress, lulling them into a therapeutic calm. Or, if they’d prefer a cosier musical experience, students can cuddle up into the Resonance Beanbag and experience the same therapeutic proprioceptive stimulation from the comfort of a colourful beanbag.
Wonder: Students can go on an active adventure, dancing, jumping, splatting and interacting with the worlds projected onto the floor by the omi projector. Dive into the illuminated ball pool and swim amongst the twinkling fibre optics. Or gaze at the bubble tube’s mesmerising bubbly light from the comfort of the soft padded podium
Room Includes: Bubble Wall, Musical Waterbed, Bubble Tube & Podium, Fibre Optics, LED Wall Wash, Laser Stars Projector, omiVista Interactive Floor Projector, Illuminated Corner Ball Pool, Resonance Beanbag, and Floor & Wall Padding.
Occupational Therapy Rooms
The bright, blue and spacious occupational therapy room was designed with movement and development in mind. Soft padding lines the walls and floors to create a safe space for exploration and play, with strong swing hooks firmly secured to the ceiling – making the room a blank canvas for therapeutic development.
From Platform Swings that engage the whole body to softly sloping Roller Ramps that challenge students’ sense of balance – the room can be used by occupational therapists to personally tailor each sensory session in the room to each student.
Classroom Sensory Corner
Special sensory areas hidden in classroom corners offer students a space to break out if they need to step away from a lesson; Taking control of their behaviour and reducing the instance of a meltdown is a productive way of productively balancing calming and learning.