#307 - Social Emotional Learning, Sensory Corners, and Fidgets with Jewelisa Blanks, M.Ed, Founder of Gifts of Joy

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC May 07, 2024

#307 - Social Emotional Learning, Sensory Corners, and Fidgets with Jewelisa Blanks, M.Ed, Founder of Gifts of Joy

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Social Emotional Learning, Sensory Corners, and Fidgets with Jewelisa Blanks, M.Ed, Founder of Gifts of Joy

Jewelisa Blanks, a respected public speaker and seasoned educator, has devoted her professional life to empowering teachers and students. A proud graduate of The Ohio State University, Jewelisa spent over seven years serving in the public education sector, fostering a deep understanding of the field over her ten years of educational experience.

Leveraging her knowledge and experience, she has drawn on cutting-edge emotional health research to affect meaningful change within the education system. Feeling the call for greater impact, Jewelisa transitioned into a full-time educational consultant role, where she continues to collaborate with administrators and district leaders nationwide.

She is committed to restoring the whole educator and child by educating teachers on the power of sensory-informed practices and their direct connection to social-emotional learning. Her reach now extends to over 1,500 schools across the United States, and she has trained more than 5,000 educators in her innovative methodologies. Jewelisa's dedication and influence continue to reshape education and student well-being in schools nationwide.

Follow Jewelisa on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/shopgiftsofjoy/

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www.jewelisablanks.com

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CASEL - Social Emotional Learning

Understanding Emotional Intelligence and the Connection to the Sensory System

 

Social Emotional Learning Sensory Corners And Fidgets With Jewelisa Blanks, MED, Founder Of Gifts Of Joy

Jewelisa Blanks is a distinguished public speaker and seasoned educator with over a decade of experience, including seven years in public education. As CEO and founder of Gifts of Joy, a company focused on sensory-informed SEL, Jewelisa is driving impactful change. 

She aims to empower educators and students by providing resources for social-emotional learning awareness, self-regulation tools, and strategies that promote supportive classroom environments. 

Gifts of Joy Sensory Kits 

Jewelisa's company, Gifts of Joy, offers sensory kits that are designed to provide educators and families with the tools they need to create a calming and supportive learning environment. These kits include fidgets, sensory corners, and other resources that easily integrate into daily lessons and activities. 

Each sensory kit can be customized for the classroom and includes a thoughtfully selected range of popular items. These tools help reduce stress, tension, and overwhelm, and here are a few of the most popular: 

  • Thick, stretchy strings that can expand up to nine feet.
  • Assortment of poppers and fidgets. 
  • Liquid motion timers are reminiscent of classic lava lamps.
  • Infinity cubes. 
  • Calming Corner Kits are tailored to different grade levels.

Selecting Items For The Kit

Jewelisa thoroughly explored sensory tools and their applications, mainly focusing on calming corners and sensory items. Notably, while most resources are geared towards special education, they hold immense value for students requiring accommodations.

These preferences don't necessarily indicate a sensory processing disorder; they help maintain self-regulation. Curious, Jewelisa investigated why people use fidgets, identifying three main categories for sensory tools.

Calming

Calming tools and strategies help individuals self-regulate during heightened emotions. Methods vary: some find comfort in holding a stuffed animal, taking a walk, or exposure to bright lights.

Focus 

For some, maintaining focus might involve squeezing a stress ball, tapping a foot, chewing gum, drinking coffee, or frequent restroom visits. Others may find that listening to music enhances their focus during work or at their desks.

Reset

Reset fidgets or tools are activities designed to engage multiple senses, like taking a mindful break, working on Sudoku, solving a crossword, or doing color-by-number art. The reset category signifies a period without expectation to continue the original task.

Essential For Every Classroom

The Gifts of Joy kits are invaluable resources for parents, teachers, counselors, principals, and therapists. Their versatility makes them excellent tools for managing emotions and behaviors. 

Training educators to use these kits effectively is crucial, as it directly impacts students' readiness to learn. To support this, Jewelisa offers:

  • Practical strategies for educators to integrate sensory-friendly practices.
  • Engage in role-playing to prepare teachers for classroom challenges with practical solutions.
  • Raising educators' awareness of their sensory preferences fosters self-awareness. 
  • Adjusting instructional practices to accommodate students with varying sensory sensitivities.

Gift of Joy's Calming Corners

Gifts of Joy is wrapping up its pilot program by collaborating with the Shaker Heights School District, Jewelisa's alma mater, to establish calming corners and provide essential training. This initiative has successfully addressed teachers' challenges, ensuring these spaces promote self-regulation. 

Creating a supportive, calming corner requires purposeful visuals, clear guidelines like the 'five steps to calm,' thoughtfully chosen fidgets, and adaptable seating options. The space should be soothing, regulating, and inviting. 

Students need to perceive these areas as supportive resources rather than punitive measures. They should learn how to use these spaces effectively, allowing educators to maximize their benefits.

Integrating Sensory Activities With SEL In Schools

Engaging teachers and schools in the initiative

Many educators and schools often link sensory needs only to special education. It's crucial to recognize the connection between sensory tools, practices, awareness, and social-emotional learning.

Educating parents

Sensory support extends beyond school, proving beneficial in places like the car or home. Encouraging parents to create calming corners at home can also benefit the child's self-regulation skills.

Acknowledge that patience is essential for the effective implementation of these strategies

During a training session, someone pointed out, "This isn't a solution; it's a strategy," and that distinction is crucial. Perceiving it as a quick fix can lead to frustration, especially if results aren't visible within a week. 

Ensure the support provided is developmentally appropriate

Children's prefrontal cortexes, responsible for executive function and emotional regulation, fully develop in their early twenties. Adults must help adolescents manage their emotions, even during their teenage years, which often involves co-regulating and using tools like fidgets. 

Final Advice From Jewelisa

Jewelisa strongly encourages embracing the journey. Obstacles are inevitable, and at times, your efforts may seem futile; however, patience and faith in the process are essential.

Know that your children will gain invaluable skills like self-regulation, self-awareness, and deep self-understanding—priceless gifts that will last a lifetime. Even if the results aren't immediately visible, your impact is significant. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BORING, BUT NECESSARY LEGAL DISCLAIMERS

While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC
Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC

Rachel Harrington, COTA/l, AC, CPRCS, and Jessica Hill, COTA/L, CPRCS are Harkla's in-house Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA) and Certified Primitive Reflex Clinical Specialists. They have been working with children for over 6 years in outpatient settings. They specialize in creating easy-to-digest, actionable content that families can use to help their child's progress at home. Jessica and Rachel are the in-house experts, content creators, and podcast hosts at Harkla! To learn more about Jessica and Rachel, visit the Harkla About Us Page. Make sure to listen to their weekly podcast, All Things Sensory by Harkla for actionable, fun advice on child development.


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