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iPads in the Sensory Room

Using Technology in Sensory Rooms

Using Ipads with SEN pupils in the Sensory Room

There are many ways to make a sensory room and learning space more engaging, one of the quickest and most versatile is… the teacher. Running a close second is by using technology. In terms of interactivity specialist sensory room equipment cannot be beaten, it is hard-wearing and well-designed. However, it is quite expensive.

An effective sensory room is not just a place to calm down, relax or listen to music. It is a fantastically immersive learning environment, with some imagination and a few resources a true multi-sensory learning experience can be built up. I was looking for a way to enhance how our existing, and in some cases quite old technology could be used for this purpose.

Ipad in strong case for installation in the sensory room

Reusing Old iPads as Sensory Equipment

We have a number of iPad’s that have been repaired over the years, sometimes the button is a little clicky, and sometimes the glue holding the screen on starts lifting off. But not once has the actual device itself stopped working. These devices needed a second life.

Guided Access on iPads: How Teachers Can Use It

Guided Access is a powerful feature on iPads that helps maintain focus by limiting the device to a single app and controlling which features are available. This can be particularly useful for teachers working with Special Educational Needs (SEN) pupils, as it helps minimise distractions and creates a more controlled learning environment.

What is Guided Access?

Guided Access is an accessibility feature on iPads that allows teachers to:

  • Lock the device to a single app: Prevents students from navigating away from a specific app.
  • Disable certain areas of the screen: Ensures that students can’t access parts of the app that are not relevant to the task.
  • Turn off hardware buttons: Disables the Home, Volume, and other buttons to prevent accidental exits or changes.

How to Enable Guided Access

  1. Open Settings: Go to the Settings app on the iPad.
  2. Select Accessibility: Scroll down and tap on Accessibility.
  3. Turn on Guided Access: Scroll to the bottom and tap on Guided Access under the General section. Toggle the switch to enable it.
  4. Set a Passcode: Tap on Passcode Settings to set a Guided Access passcode. This passcode will be used to end the Guided Access session.
  5. Enable Accessibility Shortcut: You can also enable the Accessibility Shortcut in the Guided Access settings. This allows you to quickly start Guided Access by triple-clicking the Home or Side button.

Starting a Guided Access Session

  1. Open the Desired App: Launch the app you want the student to use.
  2. Activate Guided Access: Triple-click the Home or Side button to start Guided Access.
  3. Adjust Settings: You can circle areas on the screen you want to disable and access additional options by tapping on Options at the bottom.
  4. Start: Tap Start in the top-right corner to begin the session.

Ending a Guided Access Session

  1. Triple-click the Home or Side Button: Enter your passcode.
  2. Tap End: Tap End in the top-left corner to exit Guided Access.

Benefits for SEN Pupils

  • Minimizes Distractions: By locking the iPad to a single app, students can focus better on the task at hand without being tempted to switch to other apps.
  • Customized Learning Environment: Teachers can disable specific areas of the screen or buttons that might be confusing or distracting for the student.
  • Promotes Independence: SEN pupils can use educational apps more independently, as the risk of navigating away from the learning activity is minimized.
  • Enhances Safety: Prevents students from accessing inappropriate content or settings that could disrupt their learning experience.

Practical Applications in the Classroom

  • Focused Learning Sessions: Use Guided Access to keep students on educational apps tailored to their learning needs, such as reading apps, math games, or communication tools.
  • Testing and Assessment: Ensure that students remain within a testing app without accessing other resources or tools.
  • Behavioural Management: Helps manage behaviours by reducing the possibility of distraction and providing a clear, consistent structure during iPad use.
  • Customizable Interface: Teachers can tailor the iPad interface to suit individual student needs by disabling areas of the screen that are not relevant to the current activity.

One of the best aspects for using iPads in SEN is guided access. I have written about this before, when should it be used etc but for the sensory room it is perfect. The teacher or teaching assistant can load up the apps and lock them on. this enables the session to remain focussed and prevents distractions.

By favourite buy was the stand to the right. This is angled and perfect bean bag height. the wire is velcroed on now. Very secure if that is an issue in your setting but also by being static allows zones to be created in the room.

An older iPad running Simple Sensory App

This box secures the iPad to the wall, we have set it again in easy reach whilst sitting on a beanbag height. It is unobtrusive and adds a real element of interest to an otherwise dark corner. with a little bit of planning around which apps work well in conjunction with each other, you can quickly build up a great atmosphere. You could use an app that plays music to input. Others have sound only when touched so the atmosphere doesn’t get overwhelming.

Ipads installed with bubble tube in sensory room for SEN and Autism
Ipads attached to the wall in the sensory room – Removable

Combined with matching colour fabrics and other sensory tools an engaging sensory environment can be created. I am going to try the jungle for book week.

Next to our bubble tube, I have mounted a kindle fire on a sticky-backed mount, very easy to remove and take back to your room to continue exploring or to set up before the session. for the price (under £80 excluding VAT) this combo is great.

Sensory IPAD Apps

Ipad sensory apps

The apps I am using at the moment are all free Fluidity is great for making fantastic patterns with a range of themes that would link well with literacy.

Electra is great it changes colour and is multitouch, great noises as well, great for science, maths work, or Superhero stories.

The classic Pocket Pond is the first app I installed 5 years ago on our very first iPad, excellent for science, storytelling or relaxing.

ipad sensory app autism

Dropophone– This app allows those who are musically soothed to create songs that sound like drips and drops falling on a tiny orchestra of instruments. It is a lot of fun to play.


Monster Chorus is this awesome app where you can make cool music with a bunch of cute monsters. You can even record your own voice as one of the monsters. Plus, it comes with a songbook featuring four classic children’s songs. How cool is that?

Monster Chorus

I hope this has given you some ideas to revitalise some old technology. Feel free to recommend the apps you are using in the comments.

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