Sensory rooms are a growing wellness tool and various organisations are now creating their own sensory spaces, including schools, workplaces, aged care facilities and more. With a wide range of features that can be included, it may help to consult a professional to ensure your own sensory room meets your needs.
Thankfully, companies like Premier Sensory Boutiques take the guesswork out of building your own sensory room. They offer complete room packages or individual products, depending on the route you wish to take and their products and services are backed by well-documented studies of neurological and emotional development. As experts in the field, we spoke to them to find out everything there is to know about creating your very own sensory room.
What is a sensory room?
Sensory environments are therapeutic spaces that boost relaxation and promote brain arousal. They are clinically proven to strengthen sensory pathways and encourage development in people with sensory issues.
Sensory rooms are not only a calming oasis; they provide a safe and playful environment to slowly introduce stimulus that can be overwhelming. Depending on the individual, a sensory room will have different elements, from lights and textures to soothing sounds. Sensory rooms go beyond the usual five senses, igniting deeper stimulus responses of the tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems:
Tactile refers to the sense of touch, including the components that give us a deeper understanding of what we are touching, for example, temperature, texture and moisture.
The vestibular system controls balance and spatial awareness.
The proprioceptive system, located in the muscles and joints, detects pressure and force. It is one of the most important sensory systems as it helps control our response to sensory stimulus and tells us where our bodies begin and end.
Who could benefit from a sensory room?
Sensory rooms are suitable for a variety of ages and needs. They are commonly utilised by people on the autism spectrum but are also beneficial for people living with depression, anxiety and ADHD. There is a perception that sensory rooms are for children, but people of all ages can enjoy the benefits. As a matter of fact they are also gaining popularity in aged care settings as they have been found to boost the mood and wellbeing of people living with dementia.
Sensory rooms can also be a calming space in a workplace or office, giving people a place to unwind and relax.
What are the benefits of a sensory room?
Research has shown that multi-sensory rooms can relieve anxiety, stress and pain, as well as having positive effects on an individual's focus and motivation.
Other benefits include:
Stimulation: Some people may need additional stimulation to boost wellbeing and encourage feelings of awareness.
Socialisation: Sensory rooms are a great place to spend a moment alone, but they can also provide a comfortable environment to practice socialising with others.
Improved focus: For those who struggle to focus, sensory rooms can increase awareness with their surroundings, and ultimately teach people to focus in real-world scenarios.
Motor skill development: For a person with motor skill development issues, a sensory room can be a safe place to practice these skills. Depending on the specific needs, equipment can be included that promotes jumping or bouncing and other fun, physical activities.
Cognitive development: A sensory room is a safe place for exploration and can help develop an understanding of cause and effect, fostering a sense of how movements and actions influence the world.
Sensory development: A sensory room allows someone with sensory issues to experience and understand their reactions to stimuli, which can sometimes be overwhelming. Experiencing them in a safe place will enable them to learn to process and manage their responses in the outside world.
Things to consider when creating a sensory room
There are many different elements that need to be considered when creating a sensory room, depending on who the space is intended for.
Colour can evoke a wide range of emotions, including calm and excitement. Before choosing your colour scheme, think about what you want to achieve from the room. If the room is intended to stimulate, opt for warm colours like red, yellow and orange which excite the senses. For a calming environment, greens, blues and purples will create a sense of cool and calm. To get the best of both worlds, opt for a neutral white wall as a backdrop for colour changing lights or a projector.
A sensory room's size and shape can create a certain feel and dictate how many (or how few) additional features can be included. Different people will thrive in different sized environments. Some may find a smaller setting suits their needs perfectly, while others, particularly those working on their spatial awareness, will benefit from a larger room. Sensory rooms on the larger size also allow for a more interactive and social experience, with room for more activities and play. However, if space is limited, it’s possible to create an effective sensory environment tucked into the corner of a room.
To ensure a sensory room is the oasis it's intended to be, limit outside sounds as much as possible. Choose a room with no windows or opt for soundproofing — either professionally, or by simply covering the walls and ceilings with fabric. Minimising external sounds allows for stimulus to be completely controlled, and the addition of music or the soothing sounds of nature.
4. Shapes and textures
Stimulate the senses of sight and touch by adding different shapes and textures to a tactile sensory room. These can be added in various ways, through floor and wall coverings, toys, blankets and objects. Weighted toys and blankets are a popular choice, along with sensory walls with a variety of textures, or a fidget box filled with stress relieving fidget toys.
Cater to all the senses by including relaxing aromas. Aromatherapy diffusers are a safe and natural way to fill your sensory room with scent. Each oil has a different purpose, so you can take your pick depending on whether the room is intended to stimulate or calm the senses.
The location of a sensory room is almost as important as its contents. A sensory room should be away from thoroughfares or busy communal areas to reduce outside noise and distractions as much as possible. As previously mentioned, a room with few or no windows is the ideal setting, but they can also be covered by heavy blinds.
If space is an issue, it's not necessary to devote an entire room to creating your sensory room, as smaller sensory areas can be just as effective as larger ones. Get creative with your existing space by rearranging furniture to create a sensory nook or corner.
Lighting is a vital element in a sensory experience, as it sets the mood and tone. Avoid fluorescents as they create a harsh, bright environment and emit an unpleasant noise, and opt instead for soft, warm lighting. Once you've created a calming ambience, you can add to the experience by utilising innovative colour-changing LED lights or projectors that display a kaleidoscope of images around the room.
There are endless wonderful and interactive objects which can be included in a sensory room, from weighted toys and blankets to egg chairs and sensory sacks. The sky's the limit when it comes to adding sights and textures to your room.
Understanding Individual needs
The most crucial factor to consider when putting together a sensory room is the individual. Everything mentioned above will depend on the individual needs of the person the room is being created for.
If the room will be utilised by a number of people, make sure it's adaptable and as customisable as possible to allow enjoyment for all. This can be achieved through colour change lights and projections and different sights, smells and textures.
Discover our full range of sensory room accessories and décor at Averee now.