ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – Ashley Sikora, a life skills teacher at Permian High School, has worked in special education for nine years. When she received grant money from the Education Foundation, she decided to put that towards her students.

Over the summer, she transformed her classroom with a new paintjob in an effort of making it a nicer environment for students. She also purchased several sensory friendly items for students that help keep the students calm.

Some of those items included weighted blankets, lights which she says students enjoy the most, musical items, as well as items that have bright colors to attract their attention. But a favorite of hers was the pillow knot that students use to calm themselves when they have anxiety.

“So, we just try to think what’s going to help these kids relax and be able to learn in a comfortable environment,” Says Sikora. “And so most of the items that we purchased were meant to just help with anxiety and stress, and just make it a calm happy place for them to reach their goals and all of their ambitions.”

This was on full display when Permian High was on lockdown during the opening week of school due to hoax calls. She notes that the weighted blankets helped calm her students down during the situation.

When the opportunity comes around again for Sikora to write for another grant, she looks to add more items from the ceilings or walls that her students can interact with.

And when it comes to the progress that she’s seen with her students, she says that they’ve tackled many barriers in the last five weeks. Going from students who hadn’t been able to walk to the bus independently, to now them being able to do that on their own.