This article by Lauren Hayes explains the advantages of sensory rooms and autism and suggests ways of providing some of the same sensory experiences to an autistic child in their own home or where a dedicated room is not a possibility.
We have all seen large sensory rooms kitted out with soft play and pretty bubble tubes, but how can a sensory room actually be of benefit to an autistic child?
Sensory rooms provide a non-clinical safe space to enhance learning and development through play. Who said learning can’t be fun?
Initially we need to establish the child’s issues with sensory integration, is the child over or under stimulated? This makes all the difference when deciding on how to access the environment; bright colours, flashing lights and loud music are not going to benefit someone who is over stimulated and needs a calming environment. However, this setup can encourage socialisation, communication and exploration whilst developing the senses in someone who is often under stimulated or withdrawn.
On the other hand, soft lighting, interesting textures, and proprioception techniques, such as vibration, can provide a calming environment to support with de-escalation strategies, thus helping to avoid crisis point. A fully interactive sensory room can provide both of these environments, and all in between.
So, what happens if you don’t have the space or funds to have a complete set up?
A sensory space does not have to be a whole room; it can be just a corner, different equipment around a room or even a portable sensory platform. All of these set-ups offer similar effects and benefits of a whole sensory room just on a smaller scale.
A small corner unit could be fully interactive and include items such as a bubble tube, fibre optics, a vibrating cushion and more. Clinical settings can be daunting and a designated corner for sensory equipment can make the setting seem less clinical and provide a welcome calming distraction for worried children.
Any room can house sensory equipment, in fact, why not have it dotted around your home? A bubble tube in the bedroom, vibrating chair in the living room, projector in the playroom and fibre optics in the hallway. Having the equipment in different rooms means that it is always there when you need it.
Some locations or centres may benefit more from a portable sensory unit. For example, sensory equipment can be extremely useful in schools and hospitals where space is usually a restriction. It may also be difficult to move children to a different location to use the equipment therefore the only option may be to bring the equipment to them. Similarly, if a child is near crisis point, having a portable unit could give the child access to the de-escalation features of sensory equipment quicker than if it is in a fixed location. A portable unit would have to be thought about carefully to ensure that it caters for all the potential users, however the potential benefits are definitely worth the initial design efforts.
It is worth considering a sensory room and/or sensory equipment for the entertainment, development and therapeutic benefits.
If you would like more information from DH2Solutions, please use one of the following methods:
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If you need help looking for services for an individual with an autism spectrum condition, we can help. Click below for the Autism Placement Support Service.