The Gersh Academy at Cougar Mountain will open in Issaquah, WA, in the fall of 2018, and they’re taking special education to a whole new level.
The Cougar Mountain Zoo will be located right on campus to allow students with ASD to interact with animals to promote relaxation and stress-relief. And the academy is also integrating an unusual type of therapy into the curriculum: float therapy.
But… what is that?
Float therapy uses sensory deprivation to create a calming, healing environment that can have a great effect on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. The academy is interested in studying the effect of sensory deprivation tanks on people with autism, who often struggle with sensory overload. In simple terms, the therapy involves floating in a pod of body-temperature water mixed generously with Epsom salts. Patients are left alone in a quiet room without any other distractions, sights, sounds, or smells.
The Gersh Academy is partnering with Seattle-based company Urban Float to offer this experience to students during the school day. So far, it’s already worked wonders for Tyler Reed, a 15-year-old student who is enrolling at The Gersh Academy in the fall.
“Whenever it’s super noisy, I start to get major anxiety. I’m not able to concentrate on one thing,” Tyler says. But his anxiety has gone “way down” after floating in the pods — and the relaxation he feels during his sessions has spilled over into the rest of his day, allowing him to sleep more soundly at night.
In addition to offering their students a calming environment, Gersh Academy plans to study the effect on students’ performance at school and see if it affects their focus and grades.
Hear more about the effects its had on Tyler in this video. Then, read on below to find out more about the floating experience.
Studies on the impact of using float tanks to improve a person’s physical, emotional, and mental health have shown great results. Float therapy can relieve pain, reduce stress, increase optimism, reduce anxiety, and more.
Here’s how it works at Urban Float.
After checking in, the guest sits in a calming pre float room that is quiet and dimly lit. When their float room is ready, they take a shower to clean themselves off, and then have the option of utilizing ear plugs, waterproof ear buds, and swim caps before going into the float room.
Once inside the float room, they slip inside the pod and close the lid when they’re ready. The water in the float pod is fully filtered three times between each session, and is sanitized with both disinfectant and UV light to keep it clean and safe.
There is a light switch on one side of the pod, and an emergency call button on the other side, in case they need assistance.
The pod’s water is set to body-temperature levels to enhance the feeling of weightlessness. As your session ends, soft music eases into the pod to alert you in a gentle way that your time is up.
After you leave the pod, you will again take a shower. There is also a vinegar solution you can drop in your ears to help get rid of the rest of the salt water.
From there, you head to the post float room, where you can slowly reintegrate with reality without having to immediately rush out the door.
To learn more about the process and its benefits, check out the video below.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.