Tuesday, August 24, 2021

What is a Sensory Room?

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What is a sensory room and what is it used for? Well, you'll learn all about sensory rooms below and what their purpose is.

It seems like sensory rooms are popping up everywhere lately. Schools, libraries, airports, movie theatres...you name it. The list goes on and on.

You might even see people building sensory rooms right in their own home. 

But maybe you're unfamiliar with them and aren't really sure what they're for. Or even who they're for. Or why you might want or need one.

In fact, you might be new to the whole world of sensory processing and wondering: what is a sensory room exactly? And what is their purpose even? I mean should you be building one too? Maybe, maybe not.

So let's find out! Below you'll learn what a sensory room is, where it originates from, what its purpose is, and more. 

What is a sensory room? What is a sensory room used for? Learn all of that and more here!

A Brief History of Sensory Rooms

The first sensory room dates back to the late 1970s in the Netherlands where Dutch therapists Jan Hulsegge and Ad Verheul "experimented with a sensory tent" (source). They didn't called it a sensory room though. Instead, they used the word Snoezelen to describe what they put together.

The term Snoezelen comes from two Dutch verbs that really capture the essence of what these rooms are designed for. It's a contraction of the verb "snuffelen," which means to seek and explore, and "doezelen," which means to relax (source).

You can still find official Snoezelen sensory spaces around the world today. I know we even have one here in a local school.

So What is a Sensory Room Exactly?

Well, a sensory room is a dedicated space that is designed to help individuals with sensory issues learn to regulate. They are spaces designed to provide personalized sensory input to an individual.

Now, while the name might imply that it has to be a whole room, that's not always the case. It doesn't have to be a dedicated sensory room. Instead, it could be a small space set aside in a larger room. A sensory corner, if you will.

However, the phrase sensory rooms is actually more of an umbrella term. It can be used to describe a variety of sensory spaces. 

That's why you might know sensory rooms by other names. They might be called a multi sensory room, a multi-sensory environment, or a Snoezelen room, for instance. Regardless of the name it goes by though, the purpose of these sensory environments remains the same.

So What is the Purpose of a Sensory Room Then?

These rooms are designed to be a low-stress, safe, and fun environment. As such, its main purpose is to help an individual work on regulating their bodies and emotions. And it does that by providing personalized sensory input.

However, it can serve many smaller purposes as well. 

For instance, it can help kids calm down, refocus, and work through their emotions. It can also give them a place to try out new sensory experiences or experiment and test their reactions to certain stimuli. It can also be used to help them be better prepared for learning and socializing. And finally, these rooms can be used to develop motor skills, both fine and gross, as well.

Essentially an effective sensory space helps kids return to that "just right" state. That sweet spot where they can adequately process incoming sensory input without shutting down or getting overloaded

Who Uses Sensory Rooms?

Sensory rooms offer lots of benefits. And not just for autistic kids or kids with sensory processing disorder. They can be helpful for many adults, disabled people, and people with dementia as well. Really, they can benefit anyone and everyone, doesn't matter the age.

What's Included in a Sensory Room?

It's important to note that no two sensory rooms or spaces will ever look alike. That's because they should be tailored to the individual sensory needs of whoever is using it. So what's included will vary from room to room. 

There are lots of different things that may see in a sensory room. For instance, there may be different types of sensory equipment such as swings, roller machines, scooter boards, a ball pit, a fabric sensory tunnel, or a crash pad.  

Now, a lot of the sensory room equipment that I just mentioned can be expensive. But it doesn't have to be. Especially if you're building one at home.

Some other things you might see in a sensory space include bubble machines, sound machines, specific lighting, an essential oil diffuser, lava lamps, mirrors, or fairy lights. Or it might have a sensory table to make your own sensory bins in. Or it might include a light table to play on. It may also include smaller things such fidgets, chew necklaces, puzzles, and so on.

Basically it includes a range of certain sensory stimuli and equipment that will help someone engage their senses and better process sensory information. 

But let's go back to the term Snoezelen for a quick second. Remember how the term was made up of two verbs meaning to seek and explore and to relax? Well, think of it this way. A sensory room is filled with tools that help an individual seek, explore, and relax. It's essentially a safe place for them to develop and/or engage their senses and the tools used within the room should do just that.

Other Resources to Help with the Sensory Room Planning Process

Above, I answered the question what is a sensory room? You also learned about its purpose, its history, and what can be included. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to check out these resources:

How to Make Your Own Sensory Room on a Budget

DIY Sensory Room Hacks

Engaging DIY Sensory Walls for Your Sensory Room

What is a sensory room? A look at what sensory rooms are, what they're used for, their history, and more!