Colt Sample, a student at Kyrene Altadeña Middle School, recently built a sensory room to help students with Autism or on the spectrum.

Part of his Eagle Scouts project, Sample collected donations, bought materials, and put the room together within three days at Kyrene del los Niños in Tempe.

Sample, 14, also has Asperger’s Disorder, which is on the Autism spectrum, and his younger brother, Kai, has Autism.

“(Kai) has a lot of sensory issues, which Colt is familiar with,” said Sample’s mother, Joan. “He’s really proud of it.”

The room itself is just smaller than a classroom, and it’s set up with mirrors, bounce balls, books, paper, pencils, and flashcards Sample created based on sensory activities. There is also a reading nook, tent, and musical toys that the kids can use.

“The whole idea is to have a room where they could go if they got distressed or something to help calm them,” said Joan. “It’s set up in a way for them to regroup and get back to their classroom.”

For kids with Autism or on the spectrum, social cues, interaction and information that comes into the brain through the senses is difficult.

The sensory rooms are often used by development centers and hospitals for an array of patients.

Jeanine Nesvik, a speech and language therapist at Pillar Child Development, said social awareness for kids on the Autism spectrum is often misconceived.

“The misconception is that these kids are not social,” said Nesvik. “They want to be around people and they want to interact but they don’t know how.”

Nesvik added that isolation for kids with any sort of special needs isn’t a solution.

“It’s just not a good thing for kids to be isolated by themselves, even if they look like their content,” Nesvik said.

The sensory room at Niños was made for only short amounts of time and always with a teacher or helper.

“It’s bringing the kids back to that ready place for learning,” Joan added.

Sample said he was touched by the reaction of teachers, kids, and his own family to the room that was finished just as the school year began.

He mentioned that another Boy Scout who lives in Tucson also wants to look into bringing a sensory room to schools there.

“Word is getting around about it and we are really proud,” Sample said.

The Eagle Scout rank is the highest achievement

attainable at the Boy Scouts of America. Sample’s sensory room project required a scout leader supervision, research, and his own planning.

Though he gives a lot of credit to his mom, dad, brother, and friends, Sample is happy that the room is helping others with similar issues.

“I saw a boy come in crying and then walk out with a smile,” added Joan. “It’s a huge benefit.”

For more information about Sample’s sensory room, call Kyrene del los Niños at (480) 541-4600. For more information on the Eagle Scout Rank, visit


• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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