Are you a parent, caregiver, or educator that wants to create a sensory stimulation environment to use in your home or workplace? Perhaps you’ve witnessed the impact it has on individuals with Autism or SPD and want to design a multimodal space but aren’t sure where to start? If this rings true for you, have a look at our guide to learn how to create an effective sensory area that will benefit everyone.
In the 1970s, two therapists developed the ‘Snoezelen’, a sensory stimulation environment designed with the purpose of helping their patients engage in play and activate their senses. In present times, the ‘Snoezelen’ has been renamed the “sensory room”. These spaces are popular treatment options to promote self-regulation and independence for individuals with Autism or SPD.
Sensory rooms are a successful therapeutic practice in over 400 countries. Not surprisingly, there is increasing interest among parents and caregivers who are pleased with their children’s positive changes. Parents and caregivers familiar with sensory processing disorders understand the importance of these spaces. To understand why these spaces are essential, we must examine two types of sensory issues.
- Sensory underload — An individual may be listless, withdrawn, and exhausted. After consistent use of a multisensory space, those that were under stimulated were able to engage with their environment and improve their activity.
- Sensory overload — An individual may be restless, severely irritated, and have trouble focusing. With several sessions spent in a sensory space, those that faced overstimulation were able to find peace and self-soothe themselves.
The benefits of sensory stimulation have prompted parents and caregivers to establish a sensory stimulation environment in their homes. The same can be said for educators and businesses that want to provide a comfortable space where everyone, regardless of their sensory difficulties, may participate in everyday tasks.
What Is a Sensory Room – How Does It Work? Why it Can Cost Less Than You Think!
Visualise a place that provides a respite away from crowds, noise disturbances, and harsh lights. This room would have light projectors casting a comforting glow, plush bean bag chairs to settle into, serene music, and interactive equipment to engage the senses. This is a common design plan for a sensory room. If you’re interested in establishing your own multimodal space but want to learn more about how it works and how to make a space that’s affordable, continue reading.
- Promotes a soothing space — A multisensory area’s success is due to the fact that it offers a pleasant setting that caters to the need for a relaxing experience. These areas are designed to create a calming atmosphere that helps individuals relieve their sensory processing issues.
- Provides sensory engagement — Interactive toys and devices are utilised in these designated areas to activate sensory engagement. Equipment such as bubble tubes, sensory walls, and ball pits can help children and adults with Autism, or a Sensory Processing Disorder, reconnect with their senses and engage in the moment of their preferred activity.
- Provides multiple functions — Multisensory spaces are not only tailored to engaging in sensory stimulation but serve other functions as well. They are great spaces for therapists, medical professionals, and counsellors to conduct sessions. These areas are also supported to provide positive outcomes such as increased socialisation, improved cognitive function, improved mood, stable behaviour, and increased verbal function.
The beauty of these innovative spaces is that they are easily adaptable to any budget and scale. Multisensory areas only require that they be designed to meet every sensory need. This can be done with reasonably priced items and select pieces of equipment.
Designing a Sensory Room – The Basics
Multisensory settings are becoming more popular in homes and establishments across Ireland due to the numerous benefits they provide to people with Autism and SPD. Starting your sensory room design might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve broken down the essentials of your design journey into a few simple phases. Start with these steps if you want to create a sensory area for your home or business.
- Step 1 — Find a location in your space that will allow for a successful sensory room. Larger areas are preferable, but compact spaces can create an enveloping safe space. Don’t go too small or you’ll run out of room for the various sensory toys and equipment you’ll need to complete your design. Consider a place no smaller than a broom cupboard when determining the exact area you’ll use.
- Step 2 — Calculate your budget, including all the sensory items you want to purchase. If you have a set budget, it will be easier to discuss your vision with a sensory solutions specialist. To create more room in your budget for specialised devices, try to use affordable items such as weighted blankets, yoga mats, and popper fidget toys.
- Step 3 — Make a list of the specialised equipment you’ll require to meet each sensory need. Keep in mind that everyone processes their environment differently and may have different sensory triggers. To create an effective space, list equipment for each sense including sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch, balance, movement, and interoception.
- Step 4 — Before creating your multimodal room, you must figure out the purpose the area will serve. Will this area be tailored to calming, interaction, or a combination of both? If you’re unsure about what you need, a professional can talk you through what would be the best fit for your requirements.
- Step 5 — Once you have the basics of your design plan covered, your final step before getting into the construction phase is to contact a sensory solutions expert. A professional will be able to assess what is possible in your designated area and know how to customise your space to meet every sensory need.
Designing a Sensory Room – The Little Extra Details
In Ireland, multisensory rooms are gaining popularity, and more people are advocating for inclusive spaces in public places and specialised areas in the home. Parents, educators, and caregivers are rising to the occasion and developing strategies that cater to every sensory requirement. If you’ve got your basics down for your dream sensory room but need some inspiration on the finishing touches, take a look at our recommendations below.
- Decorate with colour – To finish your design of the perfect sensory space, incorporate colour. Different colours can energise or calm the senses. To play with colour, a sensory expert may recommend rainbow floor mats, patterned sensory bean bags, and colourful floor pillows.
- Accent with interactive equipment – Implementing interactive devices in the design of a multisensory area is beneficial for engaging several senses. Items that address multiple senses, such as bubble tubes, aromatherapy speakers, and water tables, are perfect additions to create sensory stimulation.
- Create a cosy space – An area that has all the comforts of home will help children and adults with Autism or SPD feel safe and relaxed. If an individual feels overwhelmed, a sensory space can provide them with support and warmth with items such as weighted blankets, hugging pea pods, and plush toys.
- Play with light – Light is engaging and calming for the senses, and is a great addition to a combination multimodal space. Devices such as fibre optic star curtains, infinity wall panels, and flashy floor tiles can make your room interactive and relaxing.
- Promote wellness activities — Multisensory spaces need the inclusion of wellness practices to promote independence and self-regulation. Meditation, yoga, and breathing techniques are key in helping those with Autism or SPD slow down and centre themselves.
- Engage in play — It is vital to engage in play to promote sound wellbeing and engage the senses. This can be done with swings, crash pads, and sensory ball pits.
- Know the nose — Calming scents with aromatherapy diffusers will create a serene atmosphere. To engage olfactory senses in other ways, use scented playdough, scratch and sniff items, and scented nontoxic markers.
- Provide tasty treats — Gustatory needs also need to be addressed to produce the best results possible. This can be done with edible gel, chewing necklaces, and textured snacks.
- Be all ears — You can create peace and tranquillity by playing calming music with light up speakers. For those that are overwhelmed by noise disturbances, provide fluffy earmuffs or earplugs.
Government Funding, Deals, Partner Projects
Sensory stimulation environments are adaptable, diverse, and can be customised to any budget or need. If you happen to be over budget, don’t fret! A multisensory room equipment expert can appraise what is essential for your build. There are also a variety of funding opportunities available to help your project succeed. If you’re in need of more funds to develop a sensory stimulation area in your home or establishment, check out these options.
- Government funding — In Ireland, there are grant options offered by the government to help you adapt your housing to accommodate the needs of children or adults with Autism or SPD. This grant is called the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability. The grant offers a maximum of €30,000. However, it can only be allowed with the approval of an Occupational Therapist and their report outlining the necessary housing adaptations. If you are an educator, there are also grants available to acquire specialised equipment and furniture.
- Deals — When you’re working with a reputable sensory solutions company, they will offer sensory room packages and provide a free estimate and consultation with their service. If the company you are working with does not offer these amenities, move on and find a company that will offer you the best service possible.
- Partner projects — Charity support can be facilitated through partner projects. This means you can partner with a charitable foundation or company that supports individuals with Autism or SPD. You can reach out to foundations such as Enable Ireland, ASIAM, and the Irish Youth Foundation for more information.
Designing a sensory stimulation environment is as simple as taking all the senses into consideration and creating a space that is soothing for self-regulation. If you’re interested in installing this area in your home, it can be personalised with sensory toys and equipment your child enjoys. If you’re a caregiver or educator that wants to propose this space in your workplace, make sure you design an environment that can meet both calming and interactive sensory requirements. With your design goals in mind, Total Sensory Solutions specialists can install a sensory room that fits all your requirements.
With over 25 years of expertise in the industry, we are a leading sensory space design enterprise. We make it our objective as a leading source of sensory toys and equipment in Ireland to design and build facilities that match your child’s sensory necessities.