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‘Calming room’ helping students at Phoenix elementary school

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PHOENIX — Bean bags, tents, mats and dimmed lights — that’s what’s inside the calming room at Larkspur Elementary School in Phoenix.

“It’s meant for kids who are just having a hard time, whether they’re being physically aggressive or they just need less sensory input,” said Jennifer Crowley, a social worker at the school. “A staff member will go in there with them and just kind of give them some time to calm down.”

Calming rooms are seen as an alternative to traditional discipline practices.

Crowley said her school’s calming room is not meant to be a form of punishment for students, but rather a place where students can go to defuse tensions and unwind.

The school opened the calming room earlier this year after Crowley learned about it through a symposium hosted by Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

The symposium brings together teachers from across Arizona to hear from experts in mental health.

Teachers learn about trauma-informed care and best practices to help students dealing with trauma.

Crowley said in addition to the calming room, teachers at her school also are using techniques — such as yoga — to promote positive mental health for students.

All these appear to be having a positive impact.

“We have a lot less suspensions, we have a lot less discipline referrals and a more positive climate in our school,” she said.

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