SMACKOVER, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — Our senses combined can help give us a better view of our world but for some people out there it actually causes them some problems. That’s why the Smackover Elementary School created a room to help their kids function throughout the day.

“People don’t understand I can tell them but they wont understand,” Ryder Walthall said.

7-year-old Ryder Walthall is really your average kid. He’s fun and extremely playful but it’s what you can’t see or even hear that might make you misunderstand kids like him.

“I hear this weird creepy odd sound in my head. It’s like this boom boom boom. I get mad and then I calm down,” he said. “I can not control it. I try to but I just can’t. It just makes my body mad and I have shivers down my legs.”

Ryder was diagnosed with something called P.A.N.S which is short for Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome.

It causes him to have sudden outburst of anger, sensory processing issues and it can even affect his handwriting ability.

“The list goes on and on,” his mother, Amy Walthall said. “It’s just a lot of behavioral and personality changes for sure.”

Sometimes he and other kids who have social and emotional needs have had to be taken out of the classroom so they that can have a few minutes to regroup.

This sensory room at the Smackover Elementary School allows these students to have a safe place to go when they need that time.

Prior to designating a spot in the school, if a child acted out due to their sensory, a therapist would simply have a talk with the child and that child’s teacher.

Now, they have a central location for students to turn to.

“A lot of the times schools don’t have the extra space to create something like we’ve created here,” Jenny Ramsey said. “So, we’re blessed to be able to do that here.”

Ryder believes the therapists combined with the sensory room has helped him tremendously.

Everywhere you look in that space is some kind of sensory object that gives these kids positive ways to distress.

Ryder: “Hulk has angry problems. He does.”
His mom: “He works through it doesn’t he.”
Ryder: “He does. Well not really in the movies.
His mom: “But You’ve learned to work it through it.”
Ryder: “Yes, a lot honestly.”

“It’s all about finding what works for them. Autistic students typically have high sensory needs and so do other disability areas that are specific to sensory,” Ramsey said.

Everyday is a learning experience for Ryder and his family. His mother, Amy, says so many times she’s dealt with people who believe her son just needs discipline but she says it’s not that at all.

“It hasn’t been as big of an issue as pre-school and kindergarten but I think it’s just the lack of people not knowing a lot about sensory processing or knowing a lot about PANDAS/PANS,” Withall said. “It’s not always a behavior issue We have personally dealt with that.”

There are so many items in the classroom like swings, a trampoline, bouncing blocks, weighted pillows and lap blankets, a body sock, brushes and much more.

“There’s an art to all of this, ask your occupational therapist,” Ramsey said.

The therapists also keep track of a child’s journey, what triggers some of those emotions and what helps them process those emotions.

The goal is to help these students learn how to cope in the classroom so that they aren’t having to be pulled out very often.

The school hopes to continue adding more items into this new sensory room.