Gabby's Room at Heaton helps Students with Autism

Gabby's Room has opened at Heaton Elementary School in a portable classroom, filled with donated and new sensory integration and motor skills equipment to help students with autism.

The room is named for Gabrielle Cleo Ellis, a graduate of Fresno High School and student at Fresno City College who died at age 20 in 2010 in a car accident. She had plans to pursue a career as an art therapist for children.

Her mother, Christine Breaud, is the speech language pathologist at Heaton. Donors include Breaud and the Ellis Family Partnership of Nancy, Howard and Robert Ellis.
"It's wonderful to see children do what comes natural through play. Children have taught me so much about living joyfully in the moment," Breaud said.

Gabby's Room features four different swings, water and sand tables, bean bag chair, spin top, exercise balls tent, LED lights, tumbling ramp, crash pad, scooter, tubs, kinetic sand, and a trampoline. Donated extra funds are available to replenish materials and purchase additional supplies. Some of the equipment came from other motor skills rooms in the district that were no longer being used.

Students with autism typically struggle with sensory input and output. Sensory integration (SI) is a developmental theory describing how people organize sensory information from their bodies and the environment to move, play and learn.

SI develops in the course of ordinary childhood activities and provides a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behavior. The sensory experiences include touch, smell, sight, taste, hearing, movement, and body awareness. Gabby's Room is specifically designed to stimulate and challenge all of the senses.

The equipment is for autism program students primarily, but time is set aside for general education students to use the equipment as well.