Providing a sense of comfort is pivotal in treating individuals with autism. Many different sensitivities can cause discomfort among them. This insight has given schools and practitioners the opportunity to create sensory rooms and buildings to provide a sense of calm.
While hard floors can be unforgiving and very loud, children with autism may find a little relief with soft floors. For example, mats or cork flooring can help to soften children footsteps. With a visually and texturally inviting essence, it’s a warm welcome for those with sensitivities.
Sensory issues can also result from having too much light. Although light can be very nurturing, too much of it can be overwhelming for some individuals. Proper window shutters can help to adjust the amount of light that enters the room, catering to the comfort level of a given individual.
Shema Kolainu school was designed with these sensitivities in mind. Our sensory Snoezelen Room was laid out to provide a warm and welcoming environment that promotes growth and learning settings for our students. The implementation of extra-wide hallways also eases transition through different parts of our school building.
Another useful method to facilitate area transitions is to use icons, labels, and colors. The use of uniformity of color throughout the building can be beneficial. Colors play a significant role in the emotional response, and keeping them soft and consistent enhances a sense of familiarity and security.
The method of labeling different rooms, floors, and stairwells, as we do at Shema Kolainu, helps students to recognize words and places, as well as have a sense of comfort while navigating through large spaces and corridors.
“Shema Kolainu's Snoezelen Room, by controlling sound, lighting, touch, and temperature, helps our autistic children to better cope with the world around them by improving focus, promoting cognitive development, and improving motor development to name a few,” says Dr. Joshua Weinstein, CEO and Founder of Shema Kolainu-Hear Our Voices.
The Snoezelen Room leverages a sense of joy and relaxation among our students. It’s designed with lights, calming colors, and audio sounds to create a soothing yet stimulating environment. The students can calm down or regroup while being soothed on the warming massage mat or soft foam rocker. Other stimulating activities include a “busy train” and hopscotch, which activate sounds and light while they make steps.
Though our students find great joy in activities in the Snoezelen Room, sensory rooms are first and foremost about therapy. They allow for the ability to relax and relieve stress. It’s an excellent place to work on sensory issues, but also the right place when seeking release from any over-stimulation or chaos.
These sensory rooms can also serve as “Escape Spaces” for overwhelming experiences or interactions. The individual can retreat when necessary, taking time to calm down and regroup if necessary. Other establishments have begun implementing these methods and creating their own sensory rooms. For instance, at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, these types of techniques have been used for a break room at their sports arena, giving participants with autism a place to regroup.
While schools, centers, and arenas are beginning to offer these sensory rooms, some families might find that they would like to add them to their own homes. Following a few specific guidelines, it is easy to have a sensory room, which can also assist in the creation of an oasis for individuals with autism in situations of sensory-overload.