The Paulding County School Board voted to accept a $20,000 donation from Norcross-based Emma’s Emmbassadors, a nonprofit which helps families with autism. The board has a policy which requires it to vote on any donation more than $10,000.
The gift is being used to create a sensory room at Russom Elementary School. A sensory room allows students with autism and other special needs to take a break to refocus their attention, said Executive Director of Student Services Michele Sayles.
“Children [with autism] are hypersensitive to things around them,” Sayles said.
Students will use the room multiple times a day on a set schedule, she said.
“They are typically in the sensory room five to 15 minutes at a time,” Sayles said.
Last year there were a total of 254 students with autism systemwide.
The special education teachers at Russom were allowed to select the items which should be purchased.
“The teachers were able to select the items because they know the students better than any of us,” Sayles said.
Some items planned for purchase include LED fiber optic wall carpet, floor pillows, scented pillows, swings, bean bag chairs and balls.
School Board Vice Chairman Kim Curl said he is excited about using the money to create a room for current and future students.
Many schools with autistic students have sensory rooms or use areas of their classrooms as sensory areas.
The funds were available to the district as of Aug. 20, according to a letter from the nonprofit sent to the school system.
The nonprofit was founded seven years ago by Emma Vail’s family and friends after she was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. Emma is a student at Russom.
Judith Vail, nonprofit chief financial officer, is Emma’s grandmother.
“We found the school had a definite need for the sensory room,” Vail said.
This is the first time they have donated a lump sum of that size, she said.
They raise most of their funds through an annual golf tournament, which is normally the last Monday in April.
Last year was the fourth tournament and they raised more than $30,000, Vail said.
The nonprofit is always looking for public and corporate sponsors. For more information about the nonprofit visit emmas4autism.org, or call (770) 446-2627.