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Multi-Sensory Snoezelen Rooms and Environments

By Tanisha Cowell
Multi-Sensory Environment Trained
Occupational Therapist

What is a Multi-Sensory or Snoezelen Room?

Multi-sensory-room-consulting-servicesMulti-sensory, Snoezelen rooms and multi-sensory environments (MSE) have traditionally been used as a room or dedicated space designed to encourage intellectual activity and promote the development of new neural connections via sensory pathways. By offering multi-sensory equipment in a demand free environment, the user can select which senses they want to experience, the intensity, the frequency, the combination, and the order. This is all in an effort to relax, excite, learn, socialise, or heal, depending on the needs of the user, and ultimately achieve improved physiological and functional ability and a happier, healthier, quality of life.

Feeling the world – it’s what we do. By activating one or more senses, we receive information about the world around us. We then use this information to organise our thoughts, make decisions about how we feel and the actions we’ll take, and ultimately communicate back to the world in return.

This process of connecting through senses is not easy for some people, which affects the way they absorb and respond to their surroundings. A custom-tailored environment with an array of sensory stimulation may help. The multi-sensory environment (MSE) most benefits people with high support needs, sensory processing challenges, or people without disabilities where multi-sensory stimulation is a basis for learning and relaxation. Due to the wide applicational use of the MSE, it can be used as a recreational, therapeutic, or educational tool, or a combination of these.

Multi-Sensory Rooms and Environments

Today, the use of MSE’s have been applied in a variety of settings, including sporting venues, airports, schools, public events, aged care, and private homes. The increased access to MSEs means more support for people with particular sensory needs. MSEs have come a long way with the advance of materials research and technological processes. These modern-day sensory spaces now have the potential to become powerful therapeutic interventions and is rapidly becoming a valuable tool for managing health conditions.

MSEs use a range of specialised equipment designed to create an environment intended to relax, calm, stimulate, educate, among other aims. With the aid of manual controls, it allows users to interact with equipment to explore cause and effect. Equipment such as:

  • Bubble Tubes and Walls
  • Fibre Optics
  • Projectors
  • Soft Play
  • UV and darkrooms
  • Portable equipment
  • Sensory wall panels
  • Aromatherapy
  • Movement and balance
  • Mirrors
  • Vibro-acoustic platforms

Multi-sensory-room-consultantsThe first thing to consider when deciding on the selection of equipment is the goal of the sensory room and the needs of the user. Will it be used to relax or excite? For social interaction or active play? The MSE should target specific needs and skills and also be flexible to suit different users.

A calming room may be used for people who need to de-escalate and relax at certain times of the day.  Theses rooms have often been placed in school settings, airports, hospitals, private homes and public events.

An interactive room may be used to develop and maintain cognitive skills as they offer an environment where cause and effect, colour and pattern recognition/matching, social interaction and motor skill activities can be engaged in. These types of rooms have commonly been placed in schools, specialist accommodation, libraries and hospitals.

An ideal MSE offers a range of adaptable equipment which can be graded in intensity and controlled by the user to enable an ultimate sensory experience. Equipment may also be combinable combined? to add interesting layers of stimulation and effect.

The end aim in MSE design is to offer a space to be simply enjoyed as an experience, or actively participated in using controls and interactive devices. The result is an environment which will appeal to all users and provide a therapeutic addition to any care plan or activities program.

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