A sensory room is a specially designed room which combines a range of stimuli to help individuals develop and engage their senses. These can include lights, colours, sounds, sensory soft play objects and aromas all used within a safe environment that allows the person using it to explore and interact without risk.
Sensory rooms can help those who have learning difficulties, developmental disabilities or sensory impairments learn to interact with the world around them, but in a safe environment that builds up their confidence and their ability. The user gets an unrestrained, non-threatening space where they can explore at their own leisure. This freedom lets their teacher, therapist or carer see what calms them, rouses them and what they do or don’t like.
Sensory rooms can present themselves in many different forms in order to be tailored entirely to a user’s needs. For example, sensory bathrooms are extremely beneficial for users who find bath time very stressful, often seen with those who have dementia or emotional and behavioural difficulties. On the other hand, dark rooms are more beneficial for those with visual impairments. Both types of sensory room feature very different products that are helpful to those who will be predominantly using the space.
There are a whole host of benefits of a sensory room for those who require them. Some of these include:1. Sensory stimulation
2. Enhance learning through play
Sensory rooms for children should be designed with learning and fun in mind. Sensory play helps children to develop their senses, encourages problem solving and can build nerve connections in the brain. Sensory stimulation also engages different areas of the brain, helping children absorb and retain more information.
3. Improve balance, movement and spatial orientation
Sensory rooms can help develop users’ visual processing abilities as well as their fine and gross motor skills, facilitating day-to-day living. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with physical difficulties or Cerebral Palsy.
4. Develop communication skills
For some individuals, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder, both verbal and non-verbal communication is a challenge. Interactive sensory rooms can help to engage withdrawn individuals, and sensory equipment that focuses on sound can be especially helpful in encouraging vocalisation.
Sensory environments can be highly absorbing, providing a moment of comfort and calm for overactive and distressed individuals. Similarly, the safe and controlled nature of a sensory room can help withdrawn individuals feel comfortable enough to interact with their surroundings.
6. Improve focus
Some individuals find it difficult to focus. In fact, this is a common trait for those with ADHD. Sensory equipment is designed to help users concentrate on the activity in hand and, what’s more, the atmosphere of a well-designed sensory room should help to enhance focus. This is an important skill for children to develop so they can cope with real-world environments where calm and concentration is key.
7. Promote socialisation
A great sensory room benefit is that it can be used by individuals on their own or in groups. Using a sensory room with others can help to promote socialisation skills in a safe, calm and stress-free environment. If you’re designing a sensory room in a school or care home, for example, it’s great to consider how you can cater to the needs of a group and encourage interaction between users. Group sensory rooms can also help users understand cause-and-effect, for example how their decisions or movements may affect others.
To make sure users get the most out of their sensory room, consideration, research and careful planning needs to go into the design of the space.
When designing your sensory room, you need to think about the room’s objectives. Namely, who is going to be using the room and what challenges does the room need to support them with? A sensory room for a group of children with different learning or developmental difficulties will look different to a sensory room for an older adult with Alzheimer’s. Once you’ve established your objectives, you should start researching the best sensory equipment for your room.
Next, you need to think about location. Whether you are in a school or another learning environment, at home, or in a nursing home, the location of a sensory room is key. The ideal space will have no windows to control lighting artificially. A sensory room can still be created if a window is present, but all effort to reduce any external light should be made.
We also recommend choosing a location that is away from noise. An overload of external noises can cause distress and distraction while detracting from the benefits that a sensory room has to offer.
Accessibility is extremely important and must be taken into account when planning out your room, otherwise you risk excluding people who could benefit from the sensory space. For example, if your sensory room is above the ground floor, is there are working lift to get to it?
You also need to think about the logistics of your sensory room. Is the space big enough for the number of users you want to be able to have in the room at once? Are there enough plug sockets for the sensory equipment to plug into?
It’s also helpful to note that sensory rooms are often categorised into two groups – calming and interactive. Here are some ways you can make both calming and interactive sensory rooms as user-friendly and suitable as possible.
For more information on aspects of a space and elements that need to be considered before creating your sensory room, please check out our blog post dedicated to sensory room design.
A calming sensory room is good for individuals who are over-sensitive to sensory information. For this environment, you can induce relaxation and calm through a variety of sensory products.
For example, sensory bubble tubes are soothing to watch with their mesmerising movement and changes in soft colours. At the same time, these tubes stimulate visual development and communication skills. Wall mirrors can then be used to give the illusion of multiple tubes.
Additionally, you can introduce soothing sounds, which also promotes sensory development. Projectors are good for providing relaxing visuals while adding interest to the room. These visuals can be changed with a variety of effects wheels. The key is to create a space that is stimulating while maintaining a space that is soothing and de-stressing.
Some individuals experience an under-sensitivity to sensory information and can become withdrawn. In this case, having an interactive and stimulating sensory room is ideal. An interactive floor system allows individuals to interact with the images using movement. With a range of games available, such as ‘Scatter the Stars’, and an option to create your own scenarios, there is something fun for everyone. The superactive LED fibre optic bundle is another great choice for interactive rooms. It allows individuals to work on their interaction skills through cause and effect and colour recognition. Wall panels can also be a great asset to a sensory room; there is a large variety of different interactive wall panels, from an interactive LED ladderlight to a number recognition.
We hope you now have a solid understanding of the benefits of a sensory room, which type of sensory room would work best for you and how to use a sensory room effectively. We appreciate that sensory rooms may not always fall into everyone’s budget, which is why we’ve written a guide to creating a sensory space on a budget, featuring tips on how you can partake in funding.
At Experia, we pride ourselves on having the knowledge and experience to know what sensory solutions will work for each user, the abilities they have and the skills you’re aiming to help them develop. If you’d like to discuss your sensory needs further, please contact us today and we’ll be happy to help. We offer free room design and can help you navigate the sensory room planning process.