Seniors provide sensory support to the neurodivergent community

Delaney Halloran and Katherine Lehrer combine a passion for helping special needs kids and a requirement for CIVITAS seniors into a community-focused impact project.


Photo By Katherine Lehrer

Lehrer and Halloran pose in their “Feel the Love” sweatshirts to promote their project. All of their merchandise was designed by Rio graduates Jane Snider and Chase Iseley.

Emma Hutchinson, Mirada Staff

Each year, seniors in CIVITAS work to find a project to complete that encapsulates their passions and simultaneously makes a positive impact in the community.

Seniors Katherine Lehrer and Delaney Halloran launched their project “Feel the Love” to support neurodivergent classrooms by funding and creating sensory boards. The inspiration for the project came from both girls’ internships with the neurodivergent community.

Lehrer completed an internship at Epic Revolution working with socializing and spending time with neurodivergent teens and Halloran worked at the Sacramento State Literacy Clinic alongside teachers who support students with learning disabilities. 

Lehrer says that her internship showed her the value of sensory play as she viewed the benefits firsthand and Halloran realized how valuable sensory development activities are to teachers in the classroom.

“We figured that this project would be helpful for everyone in a classroom and the boards will provide support for both students and teachers,” the girls said.

The sensory boards provide a multitude of benefits to students and teachers in special education classrooms. Manipulation of items on the sensory boards helps promote the development of fine and gross motor skills and helps build nerve connections in the brain. 

The encouragement of problem-solving skills and curiosity by sensory boards can provide many benefits to teachers and aides in classrooms. Sensory play can help students regulate their emotions and redirect energy and attention towards creativity and learning, helping teachers support individual students even if there are many kids in one classroom.

Sensory boards are two-sided and portable, meaning that they provide a great deal of versatility in terms of how and where they can be used. This allows a single item to cater to a variety of students’ needs in any situation in which they could need support.

One side of the boards will be covered with carpet, turf, faux fur, sponges, and other textured items for students to touch and feel. The other side will feature movable items such as locks, latches, door knobs, buckles, and zippers to provide opportunities for practice with fine motor skills.

To fundraise for their project, Halloran and Lehrer partnered with Rio graduates Chase Iseley and Jane Snider to design merchandise with their project name and logo. They created sweatshirts, t-shirts and stickers available for purchase on their Etsy shop “feeltheloveproject”.

“Feel the Love” sweatshirts are available on the girls’ Etsy shop in multiple base colors with a colorful, mirrored design filling the back panel. (Photo By Katherine Lehrer)

Iseley, a sophomore at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, says that she felt a personal connection to the project and was inspired to support it by seeing how important the cause was.

“I wanted to participate in this project because as a CIVITAS alum I think it’s super important to support one another, especially on meaningful projects like this one,” Iseley said. “Katherine and Delaney are truly invested in this project and its cause; it’s inspiring to see them get the community involved in their efforts to fundraise and draw attention to the Special Education departments.”

Halloran says that creating the merchandise allowed for them to uniquely fundraise in a way that would be more fun for everybody and create a lasting reminder of their project message: to spread love to everyone in all communities.

“We wanted to do something other than asking for purely monetary donations because we felt it would be more exciting for us and also people who want to support us,” Halloran said. “It was important to us to make something that would last longer than our project and hopefully be an ongoing reminder to support the neurodivergent community.”

Feel free to reach out to the project’s email with any questions, comments, or concerns, or visit their Etsy shop “feeltheloveproject” to support their fundraising efforts.