Throughout this past year many kids have had to learn to adjust their routines and schedules. Parents have also had to learn how to help their children adapt, especially the ones with Sensory Processing Disorder. They have had to learn new ways to meet their child’s needs sensory wise since for majority of the year they were not able to receive therapy services. Thankfully while working close with their child’s therapists a lot of them have been able to create places that benefit their child’s sensory needs.
Sensory rooms are becoming more popular in homes, clinics, and schools. The rooms are designed to assist someone in organizing, calming, relaxing, and seeking out sensory information.
The goal of a sensory room is to provide a safe place where someone who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can go when they need to either calm or stimulate their senses. They can be as varied as the people who use them.
Sensory rooms provide a great variety of activities to help engage the senses. For information about sensory integration and sensory integration therapy, read our post here.
WHAT SHOULD GO IN YOUR SENSORY ROOM?
Since we all have different sensory needs, the room should have a variety of activities and equipment within it. The goal is for the child (and/or adult) to seek out activities to help them regulate their body. When someone has poor processing of sensory information, they may become quite uncomfortable.
Another benefit of a sensory room is to de-escalate when in a crisis situation. Some may experience a great deal of anxiety when presented with sensory information, which causes a panic reaction. Normal daily function and learning cannot occur when we feel out of control and disorganized.
Others may require more of a sensory experience and seek out sensory information in the form of crashing, bumping, chewing, and more. Further, a great number of those with Sensory Processing Disorder can have mixed needs and seek input in some areas and avoid input in others. Here are some great ideas for a sensory room:
1) A WEIGHTED BLANKET OR LAP PAD
Having some sort of weighted product that can provide a feeling of being grounded is a great idea. Since you are creating a sensory room, you'd want to find a blanket or lap pad that can provide extra sensory input beyond just the weight. Here at Sensory Jungle, we make our weighted blankets and lap pads with a minky fabric, which offers an extremely soft surface to run your hands across.
To check out our weighted lap pad here is the link for it.
2) A SENSORY SWING
There are many different types of sensory swings you could put into a sensory room for your child! Some are platforms or just fabric. You'll want to explore what type you think your child will like best. Check out the Sensory Jungle compression swing!
A swing is a great way to give your child vestibular input, which oftentimes can provide calm, as well as help your child learn where their body ends.
Whichever swing you decide to get, you'll want to make sure it's easy to install inside your home. Some can come with stands, while others are drilled into the ceiling.
3) SENSORY LIGHTING
Having some sort of lighting for your child that is different from day-to-day lights can provide not only relief but entertainment! There are many different kinds to consider and it will depend on what your child prefers.
4) SENSORY SEATING
Some sort of special seating for your child is a great idea for your sensory room. There are many different kinds of sensory seating to consider, and it depends on what your goal is with the seating.
If you want something that can be set on a regular chair, there are wiggle seats for that. If you want something that provides compression, you could consider Hug, which your child can sit in and get the feeling of a hug!
5) BODY SOCKS
Body socks are a fun, but goofy looking tool! They offer great sensory input and can actually be used in specific ways to improve a child's sense of their body.
For a list of other sensory activities to consider, check out our blog post, The Best Activities to Help with Sensory Processing.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A SENSORY ROOM?
Many hidden benefits exist when using a sensory room. People with sensory and other cognitive and physical disabilities often feel empowered when controlling the environment around them. A sensory room allows users to use whatever piece of equipment they need at the time.
For example, someone may have difficulty when over-stimulated by noise. She can enter a sensory room and use the items she feels would best make her feel comfortable and more in control of her own body’s regulation. After spending time in the sensory room, users often enjoy increased concentration and focus, improved creativity and expression, increases in fine and gross motor skills, and lowered aggressive behaviors.
Another example is when a child constantly engages in sensory seeking behavior. He needs more input in order to stay focused so he might use the weighted items in the sensory room to know where his body is in space.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SENSORY ROOMS
Tina Champagne, Occupational Therapist, discusses a ‘Sensory Room Umbrella.’ She names the sensory modulation room, sensory integration room, and Snoezelyn rooms.
A SENSORY MODULATION ROOM
A Sensory Modulation room is a space in which people go when experiencing a sensory meltdown, panic, or are in a crisis situation. Providing a safe place to de-escalate can mean the difference between someone accidentally injuring themselves when chemically driven panic reactions occur.
There may contain massage equipment, lighting that slowly changes colors, bubble tubes, calming scents, music, weighted blankets, bean bags, fidgets and other pieces of equipment designed for calming. Check out this inflatable sensory cocoon for a calming spot where your child can relax.
SENSORY INTEGRATION ROOMS
Sensory Integration rooms are wonderful spaces designed for and used by therapists. You may have seen them in your therapist’s room. Swings, crash pads, scooters, gym and playground equipment, and many others are utilized for therapeutic purposes.
Occupational therapists can seek out additional training in order to properly use and work with children in the sensory integration room. Be sure to ask your OT if she is familiar with sensory processing when you schedule your first appointment.
Check out the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation for specific details about sensory treatment techniques. The OT makes specific client-centered functional goals and uses equipment to help prepare a client to engage and interact for optimal learning.
Snoezelen rooms were first developed in Holland. The name is Dutch and the goal in this room is that the person using the room is in control. The specific needs of each person using the room are considered and there are no specific therapeutic goals. When using the room, the student decides what activities in which to participate.
DIFFERENT SIGNS OF SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER
Remember that there are eight senses: vision, smell, hearing, taste, touch, vestibular (movement), proprioception (position in space), and interoception (internal information from organs and receptors).
While there are many signs of Sensory Processing Disorder, here are some examples of difficulty processing sensory information:
- over-responding to unexpected touch
- covering ears often in crowded settings and/or experiencing a panic reaction with a loud or unexpected sound
- picky eater and has extremely limited food preferences
- gags when smelling something
- avoids messy play
- seems clumsy and frequently falls or becomes injured
- becomes upset with bathing, dressing, tags, seams, transition of clothing from season to season
- does not notice when injured
- over-stuffs mouth
- avoids playground equipment
- experiences difficulty with transition from activity to activity
- frequent meltdowns
For a detailed guide to sensory processing disorder, check out our blog about it. https://sensoryjungle.com/blogs/sensory-journal/what-is-sensory-processing-disorder
Consider adding a sensory room to help meet therapeutic goals, assist in calming, and make life more comfortable. It’s important to remember that we explore and interpret our environment through our senses. The most important thing is to provide a safe setting.
When a person can better process sensory information, they can often pay more attention to their teacher, learn functional skills, and even improve verbal skills. The possibilities are endless!