Sensory Zone


The Sensory Zone is a feature offered and supported by Fullerton Cares and is unlike anything offered elsewhere. Designed by Fullerton School District Autism Special Day Class teacher Susan Pettinichio, with an MS in Special Education, certificate in Behavior Analysis, and Certificated in Moderate/Severe Autism education, Ms. Pettinichio spent years developing and implementing sensory experiences for her students and the community with the support, resources and encouragement of Fullerton Cares Autism Foundation.

Among the outcomes of this collaboration included the sensory zone, a featured attraction of over 75 community events in North Orange County since 2012, offering sensory experiences, calming experiences, energizing experiences, and regulating experiences for kids of all abilities, and something which has been clinically recognized to provide great therapeutic benefit to children with autism and other sensory challenges.

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At an event featuring the sensory zone, there is typically an area about 50ft by 100 feet with over 12 tubs of different sensory experiences including rice, beans, shaving cream, bubbles, foam, and more, all in a supervised and safe environment for kids of all ages. What this does is more than just providing sensory input. It provides the keys to regulation and balance for kids who may experience unique sensory challenges when attempting to join community events. Kids with behavioral challenges can withdraw, become aggressive, become upset or begin to become very anxious in a community outing, especially one with lots of people, noise or new features. What the sensory zone does in enable these kids to be part of the community, building rapport and relationships and a solid foundation that will help kids affected by autism to more deeply engage and connect with the community both now and in the future. The sensory zones address a deeply unmet need in not just our community, but in our country as more and more people become diagnosed with autism (current CDC rate is 1 in 68 children) and the sensory zone serves a greatly underserved need, where all people of all backgrounds and abilities have the opportunity to feel included.

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