Friday, March 10, 2017

Regulation Rendezvous--Home Base

Welcome to our newest series, Regulation Rendezvous, which highlights the wonderful sensory supports we have seen across the Miami Valley.

To kick things off, we are starting with one of our favorite supports for helping students manage their anxiety and sensory regulation, Home Base. The use of Home Base can help students prevent or recover from a behavioral meltdown as a result of sensory overload or increased stress and anxiety. Home Base should be a specific location within the school or home environment where the student feels safe, comfortable, and is typically "sensory neutral" or has very minimal alerting input.

Some schools have enough space for dedicated Home Base room.
Snyder Park Elementary, Springfield City Schools

Perrin Woods Elementary, Springfield City Schools

Orchard Park Elementary, Kettering City Schools
Intensive Needs Classroom, Greene County ESC

Many times, teachers create a Home Base area within the classroom due to space, staffing, safety, and/or convenience. Home Base goes by many other names as well such as a Calm Down Corner, Cozy Corner, or Chill Out Zone.

Kate Pennington, Kettering Early Childhood Education Center

Many Home Base areas have flexible seating such as a bean bag or rocking chair.
Anne Rosenbaum, Orchard Park Elementary

Kendall Koehler, Normandy Elementary

Amy Beanblossom, Arcanum Elementary
Rachel Hatton, Normandy Elementary

Sometimes, teachers will block off this space using dividers, tables covered with a sheet, or a tent.
Kendall Koehler, Normandy Elementary

Jamie Zimmer, Kettering Middle School

When using a tent, we suggest a cotton or canvas material. Often times the texture and scratchy sound of a vinyl tent can be too alerting for students who are trying to calm down.
Orchard Park Elementary, Kettering City Schools

Lisa Reinmuller, McKinley Elementary

They may also have weighted items like a weighted blanket or lap pad. And dimmed lighting to reduce visual distractions as well as use of calming colors such as blue and purple.
Athenia Eversole, Versailles Elementary

We recommend that time in the Home Base area be scheduled throughout the school day especially to help students prime or recover for times of day that may be most stressful and difficult to regulate. For many students with autism these are less structured times such as such as specials, lunch, recess, or assemblies due to the increased sensory and social demands.

Home Base breaks should often be different than reinforcement breaks. Home base breaks are a tool necessary for helping students with sensory regulation. They should not be contingent on being earned or withheld from students. Home Base breaks should be viewed with as much importance as academic times because maintaining self-regulation allows for more opportunities for learning and increased success in the school environment.

Sometimes staff or students may initiate additional Home Base breaks if they sense sensory overload. Going to home base should be viewed in a positive way and not associated with punishment or “time out” and should be directly taught as a strategy to help students cope. Some signs of sensory overload that we often see include but are not limited to "cocooning" in hooded sweatshirts, increased rocking or pacing, increased self-talk or scripting, closing or rubbing eyes, or increased need for deep pressure such as through hugs or leaning into furniture. Other students engage in escape behaviors when they are unable to communicate they need a break. These signs vary with each student. Consult with your OT if you need help identifying these signs in your student. One effective strategy we see is teaching students to use a break card.

Home base is not intended to be an escape from schoolwork. If a student finds the classroom to have too much sensory input, schoolwork can be completed within the home base area. Sometimes this may be a spot in the library or in a study carrel work space.

For additional information, visit the Home Base module on the Autism Internet Modules at 

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