Loras College sensory room offers small sanctuary for students on autism spectrum

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Loras College is leading the way in how it helps college students on the autism spectrum.

Loras College's sensory room is a comfortable space for students to unwind, relax or blow off some steam. Photo date: February 1, 2018 (Allison Wong/KCRG-TV9)

The school is in its second year of operating the Autism Resources for Career and Higher Education (ARCH) Program.

Students enrolled in this program receive extra support from faculty and staff during their four years at Loras.

One of the newest additions to the program is a sensory room.

It's a relatively small room inside Rohlmann Hall, and it's full of so many activities for students, like games, sensory bottles, a punching bag, trampoline and more.

It all helps students who have sensory processing disorders, like sophomore John Cella who has Asperger's.

"It affects how you interact socially and how you think," Cella said of Asperger's.

Cella says he likes to be social, but sometimes large crowds can become too much for him.

That's when the room comes in handy.

Cella said, "this is where I come to like just have some time to myself."

Director Lynn Gallagher says the room is important because many of her students are stressed or anxious after attending classes.

"When they get to the end of the day they really need a place to release that," she said.

Lynn wants to make this more available.

"Our goal is to have a room like this in every res. hall soon and perhaps every building at some point," she said.

Gallagher doesn't know of any other college in eastern Iowa that has a sensory room.

But she wants other colleges to follow their lead.

She explained, "I like to talk to my colleagues in disability services and say, 'you know this is something you know if you want we can help you with.'"

It might seem so small, but John says this is really a big deal in helping him through college.

"It's really a really nice therapeutic environment," he said.

All of the items inside the sensory room were donated to Loras by Libbie-Weber Bettis, Denny Weber and Dubuque Slumberland in memory of Larry Weber.