What is a Sensory Room?
Sensory rooms combine a selection of stimuli, such as colours, lighting, sounds, aromas and soft play objects, to create a safe therapeutic environment that enables individuals to explore and engage with their senses.
A sensory room can help those with sensory impairments, learning difficulties and developmental disabilities to learn to interact with the world around them more competently and confidently. It provides the user with an unrestrained, non-threatening space to explore at their leisure, in turn helping their therapist or teacher to get to know which inputs they find rousing, and which they find calming.
This gives staff a better understanding of the individual’s needs, enabling them to tailor the sensory environment accordingly and helping them foster positive relationships for the future.
Sensory Room Design
No two sensory room designs should ever be the same. Instead, the stimuli should be chosen carefully to meet the specific needs of each individual. This can be easier said than done to begin with, as one can never be quite certain how each individual will react to a given stimulus.
The best way to start is by testing the user’s reactions to a few stimuli at a time, taking it slowly to avoid sensory overload. Once they encounter a piece of sensory equipment with which they can really engage, this can then be used as a basis for future sessions.
Over time their confidence will grow, and they will feel more empowered to make choices about stimuli that they want to experience.
Sensory Room Equipment
Many different sensory products are available to suit various different needs. As well as equipment designed to stimulate the visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile senses, there are also resources to help with balance, movement and spatial orientation.
Here are some examples of the different types of sensory stimuli that are available:
- Visual – fibre optics, bubble tubes, projectors, mirrors, glow in the dark stars
- Auditory – rattles, musical instruments, interactive toys, CDs and audio books
- Olfactory – aroma oils and diffusers
- Tactile – fabrics, sand and water, interactive toys and activities
- Balance and Movement – soft play equipment, swings, seesaws and weighted objects
Sensory rooms offer effective support for a wide range of different conditions , including developmental disabilities (e.g. autism), psychological disorders (e.g. anxiety) and brain injury (e.g. cerebral palsy). They can improve people’s lives in a number of different ways, some of which are listed here