ANTIOCH -- Talon Mosley stole the show on Sunday.
The diminutive, 14-year-old Liberty High School student with cerebral palsy broke into a grin and began to giggle when she was placed on the vibroacoustic mat at the grand opening of the Special Haven multisensory room in Antioch. Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, was smitten, so much so that he became emotional during the ribbon cutting. He called the center a "respite for families."
While other families were enjoying the kickoff for the Niners game, Frazier joined families of children with special needs in celebrating the kickoff of a host of new sensory opportunities at a remodeled and expanded multisensory room. The $36,000 expansion and upgrade was two years in the making.
Talon's mother, Kathy Mosley of Oakley, said the room is a respite for herself as well as for her three adopted children with special needs.
During training for the use of the room, she says she found herself responding to the soft music, comfy mats, and gently bubbling, floor-to-ceiling colored water tubes.
"I'm finding I have a need for it just as much," she said. "It just replenishes me."
Son Travis, 11, who has autism, was less Zen in his review: "The balls! I jump in and yell, 'Cannonball!'"
Travis held court with a giggling bevy of laughing preschoolers in a small ball pit that subtly vibrates along with the music in the room, disappearing under the orbs to his playmates' delight.
Meanwhile, sister Tangi, a quiet 9-year-old with developmental delays, enjoyed a sound and touch board in a quiet area nearby.
Meeting such different needs is one of the hallmarks of the special sensory environment, said Special Haven board member Christine Schwab. Families, teachers and therapists using the room will be able to set the visual, aural, tactile and even olfactory inputs to meet the needs of children in the room.
"Normally the room would be completely off, and we would let the child dictate the room," she said.
Special Haven requests a $5 donation for a 45-minute to hourlong session in the new room.
Use is by appointment, and one adult in the room must have completed a brief, on-site training to assure they understand how to use and care for the equipment.
The next training is scheduled for Feb. 9.
The room was funded by grants from the Christopher Douglas Hidden Angel Foundation, the Special Kids foundation, and matching fundraising by Special Haven. The room is the first of its kind in the East Bay, and one of few available publicly rather than through a medical facility.
Antioch City Councilwoman Monica Wilson called the new room "a jewel" for the community and the entire Bay Area.
As families begin to enjoy the remodeled room, Special Haven Board members already are back at the task of raising money to pay rent and other costs. The next fundraiser is a Valentine's Day movie night for the kids featuring "Monster University." Parents may drop off children by 6 p.m., or choose to stay and enjoy a movie and pizza.
An RSVP by Feb. 7 is required to ensure appropriate staffing levels.
The room is at the Intuitive Healing Center, 213 G St., Antioch. For more information about Special Haven, call 925-222-5322 or visit www.specialhaven.org.