Relaxation Room Helps WCU Students Alleviate Stress as They Prepare for Final Exams This Week

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From a global pandemic to upcoming final exams and commencement in December, and just about everything in between, stress continues to loom large for many students.

With this in mind, two students from West Chester University’s Honors College, Mary (Molly) Parkes and Courtney Purdy, decided to use their honors capstone project to put the “chill” factor in the lives of WCU students by creating a full-fledged relaxation room.

Thanks to these students’ brainchild and a donation of more than $8,500 worth of sensory furniture pieces from Fun and Function LLC in Merion Station, a soothing environment has been created for all WCU students, especially those who have autism, in the most natural space on campus: the quiet first floor of the Francis Harvey Green Library.

Final exams run from Dec. 14-18.

Named after the university’s beloved Golden Ram mascot, the “Relaxin’ Rammy Corner” has been especially popular this fall with students returning to in-person classes and will continue to act as a major stress-buster as students prepare for final exams.

The Relaxin’ Rammy Corner is as comfy cozy as it is tranquil and serene with a hammock swing, lounger hammock chairs, gel floor tiles, fidgets, noise cancellation headphones, and more. The room features fun things like the Squeeze Me Seat, the Mega Mushy Smushy, the Dawn ’Til Dusk Effects Wheel, the Busy Fingers Weighted Sensory Pillow, and the list goes on.

“We noticed that there was a need to have a designated space on campus where students could decompress and regulate themselves amidst all the stresses of college,” said Purdy, a recent graduate who majored in exercise science with a minor in pre-occupational therapy and psychology. “While Relaxin’ Rammy is open to all students, it has been especially designed to support students with autism. The room brings to light the supports that students with varying abilities need to reduce anxieties, while, at the same time, helping students with neuro-typical needs cope with day-to-day life events. Everyone benefits.”

“With a background in the field of education, I have spent lots of student-teaching time in classrooms with young people who have numerous abilities,” said Parkes, a secondary special education and mathematics major who will graduate from WCU during commencement this December. “I’ve always thought about what could be possible for these students as they take their next steps to college. Creating a sensory room just seemed to be a logical project for Courtney and me to take on, because we could see all of the possibilities from educational and occupational-therapy lenses.”

“Courtney and Molly came to me with their idea to create a sensory room on campus as part of their capstone project,” said Cherie Fishbaugh, Director of WCU’s Dub-C Autism Program. “I was thrilled with their concept to establish a calming space that would allow all students to decompress and reduce anxieties. This shows how aware our students are of others’ needs and how inclusive-minded they tend to be.”

To make the room come alive, Purdy and Parkes worked with Fishbaugh, who inspired them when they were sophomores. Fishbaugh gave them a lot of ideas and names of professionals to speak with as they did their research.

The team wanted the therapeutic space to be useful and meaningful to students, so they made sure to secure students’ thoughts about what would be helpful for their needs, as well as what would be desired for their eclectic tastes. To make sure they were on the right track, Purdy and Parkes met with experts in the field who had completed similar sensory projects, including the Eagles Autism Foundation.

“When we were compiling our list of resources for the room, we found that the items were costly and really adding up quickly,” said Purdy. “During one of our meetings, we mentioned our idea to Fun and Function. The next time that we spoke, Fun and Function offered to donate all the products for the room. Wow! We were surprised, thrilled, and ready to hit the ground running.”

The first-floor library has been witnessing the benefits of the sensory room. Associate Dean of Libraries Amy Ward said that the timing could not be more perfect.

“University Libraries has been actively working to find ways to promote positive self-care habits that balance the academic rigor our students encounter at West Chester University,” said Ward. “Including the Relaxin’ Rammy Corner in Francis Harvey Green Library is highlighting the importance of taking breaks to refocus, de-stress, or just enjoy a little play time in between study time. We are excited to be a partner in this initiative because this will have a broad reach across campus, and we believe in its potential to provide continued support to our students.”

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