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WCI making a difference

New sensory room at sheltered workshop

By Holly Neumann

The Anthony Family Foundation awarded Waupaca County Industries (WCI), located in Manawa, a $5,000 grant to create a sensory room at the facility.

WCI is a sheltered workshop that offers pre-vocational and community employment, as well as other services for adults with disabilities.

According to Lisa Grasshoff, the rehabilitation manager who applied for a grant, the room is a welcome addition.

“We had a room, but it was not a true sensory room,” she said. “All it really had were four tan walls and there was only room for one person.”

The project, which began in January, is now complete. It has an ocean theme complete with sharks, fish, netting and even a sparkling ocean floor.

Grasshoff is quick to point out staff members Hannah Lamers, Sarah Wildes and Kortnei Lewis who helped make it happen.

“I was really big on getting this room and these three ladies really stepped up,” she said.

She said the room was much needed so members would have a place to go when they are feeling over-whelmed or over-stimulated throughout the day.

“In the past we have had members become upset, causing them to become destructive to themselves and others,” Grasshoff said.

“It’s a place where they can go to calm themselves down,” Lewis said.

She noted that supervisors can watch members throughout the day and hopefully intervene before these types of situations escalate.

“It’s trauma informed care,” Grasshoff said. “Now, instead of saying because of your behavior you can no longer come to WCI, we are offering them a welcoming space where they can go.”

“It’s a relaxing environment,” added Wildes.

The room is equipped with play-dough, books, markers, balls and so much more.

Department of Health and Human Services board member Mary Poehlman felt that the women did a great job.

“This is awesome,” she said. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”

“The members will love this,” said Charlotte Hoffman, senior aide at Manawa Nutrition Center.

Some of the more unique items that the room has are a weighted vest and cocoon chair.

“We got the weighted vest for our members with autism spectrum disorders,” Grasshoff said. “Having something weighted on them gives them comfort. That in combination with the cocoon chair will be very helpful.”

As the members come to visit the room for the first time, the excitement shows on their faces.

“I like this stuff,” said one member as he played with a jar of Gak.

“I like the shark on the wall,” said another.

With the funding that is still left over, the hope is to add music to the room.

“We had a lot of fun creating the room,” Lamers said.

“We all get along so well, we did a lot of research to make this perfect,” added Lewis. “It made us feel like we are truly making a difference.”

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