A Cranbrook mother is receiving praise across the world for her design of a sensory path aimed at helping kids in school when they need a movement break.
Chantal Marra is a mother to three children ages 11, 13 and 16. Ten years ago she started a vinyl business called Chantal’s Vinyl Expressions. At first she was making signs and mugs, but the business has since evolved into making sensory paths for schools as well.
Marra explained that two of her children were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This is what inspired her to begin working on a project at her son’s school, Kootenay Orchards.
The path is made of vinyl stickers that are stuck to the floor and walls in the hallway of the school. There are hop-scotch-like patterns, hands to high-five, circles to follow with your finger, places to stop and take a breath and much more. It gets kids to focus on the task at hand, move their bodies and mentally step away from classwork.
Since the installation of the first sensory path, Marra’s work has gone viral and been shared across the world. A video of her son walking the path has been seen and shared over 16 million times.
She has sold the sensory path packages to schools in Italy, Ireland, Germany, England, the U.K., Australia, Spain, the U.S. and all across Canada.
“I’m continually working on new designs that have gone into pediatric hospitals, pediatricians offices, personal homes and even juvenile facilities,” Marra said. “The teachers and students have all given praise for it and find it helpful for refocusing and redirecting kids when they need a movement break. It’s not meant to be used as a substitute for physical education class, but sometimes kids need a brain break, or to get their wiggles out.”
She has also made adaptations for COVID-19 with three new contactless paths.
“They are all based on no hands touching surfaces to help keep things clean,” Marra explained.
Here in Cranbrook, Marra has installed sensory paths in Pinewood Elementary, Amy Woodlands, Highlands Elementary, Steeples Elementary and the largest one at TM Roberts.
There is also a path at Elkford Elementary school and she sold a few packages to schools in Invermere.
“I was focusing on our local area when I posted the video of my son following the path at Steeples school,” she said. “It was over Christmas break when the school was closed. He came to help me finish up installing and cleaning up so he had taken off his winter boots (that’s why he had no shoes on in the video). When we were done, I asked if he wanted to try it. He loved it!”
Marra says she works closely with every school to modify the design or make the path work for their specific needs. Many schools have been able to purchase the sensory paths through fundraising or government grants as well.
You can check out Marra’s work by visiting her Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/chantalspaths.
“I am grateful I get to share this all around the world,” Marra said. “Plus, my son thinks he’s famous!”
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