GREENVILLE — During football season, student members of marketing club at Greenville High School utilized a “mad minute” of fundraising to help gather money for a cause.
It took a little longer than expected, but the nearly $500 raised by the DECA group purchased much needed weighted vests and blankets for special education students at Baldwin Heights Elementary School.
“It was really nice they were thinking about these things for us because they are definitely needed,” said special education teacher Kim Ramos of the equipment.
The weighted vests, also called deep pressure vests, can be highly beneficial to children with special needs such as those diagnosed with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, sensory integration and other neurological disorders.
The weight provides the children with a sense of calm and comfort.
“It’s like a hug, it’s deep pressure and it just feels good,” said Linda VanHouten, director of student services at Greenville Public Schools. “It helps make them feel comfortable and safe. There is something about that deep pressure going into the body that comforts us.”
During sensory exercises Monday, students in Ramos’ class used the vests, blankets and pads, most voluntarily grabbed them, throwing them over their heads and onto their shoulders.
Six-year-old student Julien Shaver, who is cognitively impaired, went on with his activities with a weighted vest strapped over his hooded sweatshirt. It was hardly noticeable visually, but the effect it had was calming.
“It helps keep them anchored and focused,” Ramos said.
Nine-year-old Jacob Rousseau, who was diagnosed with autism, also uses the deep pressure devices to comfort him when needed.
“He has so much stimuli, he doesn’t know how to sort it out. It helps with the sensory and sensory is a huge part of our day,” Ramos said of Rousseau. “He wants to be squeezed and he wants to be hugged, he wants to feel that pressure.”
Other students use the blanket during short naps, lap pads during classroom activities and other weighted equipment during lessons.
“For these kids, it is very valuable,” Ramos said.
The decision by DECA, which has 48 members, to raise money for students with special need started in the fall. The group decided on a “Time for Change” fundraiser, collecting cash and change from those in attendance at a home football game.
The goal was to raise money for students with special needs, but the group wasn’t sure what form that would take.
“This year, the Greenville High School DECA officers came up with several options and decided that we would like to support our local autistic students,” said Kelly Roney, the head of the Greenville DECA group. So they contacted VanHouten, who recommended the deep pressure equipment as one of the potential purchases.
“She gave us a few options, one being to fund much needed weighted vests, blankets,and fidgets,” Roney said. “We felt that was a great idea.”
After a few hurdles in the order and shipping, the equipment arrived about three weeks ago and has been in use since, a much needed addition to the weighted equipment the school already had.
“We’ve had them before, we just didn’t have enough,” said VanHouten, who added she admired the student group for choosing the special education program as the recipient of its fundraiser.
“I see it as kids helping kids,” she said. “They see the students at school and wonder what they can do to help them be successful.”