The benefits of a Snoezelen Room – An OT’s perspective
By Emma Emmerich
The term “Snoezelen” or “Sensory” room sounds like something an Occupational Therapist trained in Sensory Integration should be intimately familiar with. Sadly, for me, and I’m sure many other therapists reading this, this was not the case. Of course I have misused this term in the past, to refer to spaces containing the usual SI therapy equipment, but in doing so missed out on a totally different concept of what such a room could be.
The original purpose of the Snoezelen Room was to provide persons with intellectual disabilities with a safe space in which they could relax and participate in leisure activity, through gentle stimulation of the 5 basic senses (vision, hearing, smell, touch, taste). Many studies have since proven that regular access to such a room for this population led to decreased anxiety, decreased disruptive behaviour, improved time on task, improved adaptive responses and improved social interaction.
As the positive outcomes were documented, therapists started incorporating therapy goals into the use of the rooms. The beauty of the sensory room, for me, lies in the utter “customizability” of the room. I could tailor the room around the sensory profile of my client, to support their modulation difficulties; provide a safe space to regulate arousal levels and set up learning opportunities. Just think of all the possibilities, one room, but so many different ways of using it.
With the help of technology, the sensory room environment is no longer a passive environment where the individual is simply expected to “absorb” the stimuli presented. Now each and every individual could access controllers, be it through switch access or eye tracking that can change the colour of lights, switch equipment on or off, and activate vibrating toys or even an aroma therapy fan.
Another reason why I absolutely love the Snoezelen concept, is the potential it has to assist in the improvement of functional vision for children with CVI (Cortical Visual Impairment). Again, the fact that the environment can be customised, means that colour can be used very specifically, high contrast is easily created through the use of UV light and UV sensitive objects and once again, accessibility is key.
In this multisensory environment, the sensory needs of individuals can be met, preparing them for learning. Early communication skills like cause and effect, turn taking and joint attention can be facilitated in this highly motivating sensory environment. Most importantly, it is tons of fun!
So, whilst the benefits appear to be clear, I did not explain the technical ins and outs of setting up such a room, how much it would cost, what you would need… Here’s the good news! You can visit our Snoezelen showroom to experience it for yourself. Come take a dip in our colour-changing ball pool, hang around the bubble tubes and discuss your needs with us. We will help you design your room, and even install it for you.
If you would like more information on our Snoezelen Rooms, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.