Sensory rooms are becoming more popular in homes, clinics, and schools. The rooms are designed to assist someone in organizing, calming, relaxing, and seeking out sensory information. The goal of a sensory room is to provide a safe place where someone who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can go when they need to either calm or stimulate their senses. They can be as varied as the people who use them. Sensory rooms provide a great variety of activities to help engage the senses. For information about sensory integration and sensory integration therapy, read our post here.
Since we all have different sensory needs, the room should have a variety of activities and equipment within it. The goal is for the child (and/or adult) to seek out activities to help them regulate their body. When someone has poor processing of sensory information, they may become quite uncomfortable. Another benefit of a sensory room is to de-escalate when in a crisis situation. Some may experience a great deal of anxiety when presented with sensory information which causes a panic reaction. Normal daily function and learning cannot occur when we feel out of control and disorganized. Others may require more of a sensory experience and seek out sensory information in the form of crashing, bumping, chewing, and more. Further, a great number of those with SPD can have mixed needs and seek input in some areas and avoid input in others.
Many hidden benefits exist when using a sensory room. People with sensory and other cognitive and physical disabilities often feel empowered when controlling the environment around them. A sensory room allows users to use whatever piece of equipment they need at the time. For example, someone may have difficulty when overstimulated by noise. She can enter a sensory room and use the items she feels would best make her feel comfortable and more in control of her own body’s regulation. After spending time in the sensory room, users often enjoy increased concentration and focus, improved creativity and expression, increases in fine and gross motor skills, and lowered aggressive behaviors. Another example is when a child constantly engages in sensory seeking behavior. He needs more input in order to stay focused so he might use the weighted items in the sensory room to know where his body is in space.
Tina Champagne, Occupational Therapist, discusses a ‘Sensory Room Umbrella.’ She names the sensory modulation room, sensory integration room, and Snoezelyn rooms.
Remember that there are eight senses: vision, smell, hearing, taste, touch, vestibular (movement), proprioception (position in space), and interoception (internal information from organs and receptors). While there are many signs of SPD, here are some examples of difficulty processing sensory information:
Consider adding a sensory room to help with meeting therapeutic goals, assist in calming, and make life more comfortable. The most important thing is to provide a safe setting. It’s important to remember that we explore and interpret our environment through our senses. When a person can better process sensory information, he can often pay more attention to the teacher, learn functional skills, and even improve verbal skills. The possibilities are endless!
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