GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A local non-profit has made a sensory room possible at Helen Devos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids.
Non-profit 'i understand' focuses on supporting those who have lost loved ones to suicide and works to combat mental illness in the community. The organization has also funded a behavioral nurse at the children's hospital.
It became clear the hospital was in need of a sensory room, designed for children who may have an autism spectrum disorder.
The space includes elements like lights, tactile materials and projected images, which are known to bring calm to children who may have sensory issues.
"This is going to make such a difference in the lives of our children, especially the children that come in, in psychiatric crisis and are waiting for in-patient psych placement," said Ashleigh Nurski, Clinical Nurse Specialist for Pediatric Behavioral Health and Acute Care Services at Helen Devos Children's Hospital.
The room could make a significant impact as the hospital has seen an increase in children being seen for mental health issues.
Other parents are bringing their children to the hospital if their child has sensory issues because they can't get into clinics with months-long waiting lists.
"We have also noticed an uptick in children who have autism or are on the autism spectrum disorder, in part because a lot of services have transitioned to virtual platforms, and so that in person connection is not necessarily there," said Nurski.
The hospital worked hand-in-hand with 'i understand' to fund and design the room, which will be opening in April.
"The ‘i understand’ sensory room has been such an important project for not only me personally, the organization and the children’s hospital, but any child that may be on the autistic spectrum that needs a place of comfort and calm during their stay," said Founder Vonnie Woodrick.
The non-profit has links available to help those who may be struggling with mental health or the loss of a loved one to the disease.