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Sensory Rooms for Schools, Therapy Centers & Individuals

Sensory rooms started appearing in the U.S. several decades ago in response to children who were experiencing sensory disorders or struggling with proprioception. Back then, the lines were a lot more blurred, and therapists were only just beginning to separate special needs disorders into categories such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome.

Sensory integration therapy was designed to address how children (or adults) responded to certain stimuli. From integrating sights and sounds to foods, smells and textures, sensory therapy could help those with a sensory processing disorder become more tolerant while also satisfying the types of stimulation they craved. Sensory room equipment can be visual, auditory, tactile, and physical and even emotional.

In recent years, sensory therapy has begun to become more mainstream. New studies about the efficacy of sensory rooms and sensory integration are being increasingly funded, and its no surprise that the results back parents' claims that their children actually improve when exposed to sensory integration.

When autistic children ages 4-8 were provided with one hour of sensory intervention three times per week in this study, independent evaluators concluded that the kids “were better able to participate in self-care and social activities.”

Sensory rooms are ushering in a new era of integrating schoolchildren into normal settings and getting them ready for learning.
Once mainly used experimentally, sensory rooms are now starting to spring up everywhere. A sensory room could incorporate as little as dimmed lighting and soft sounds and be as elaborate as crash pads, pressure machines, bubble columns and swing sets.

Different equipment is designed to address different issues; the child who needs to blow off steam will want to run, jump or crash whereas the overstimulated child will benefit from soothing sounds and sights.

Teachers who incorporate sensory rooms into their classroom setting are finding that children are more in tune with the learning experience, whether it’s just another manic Monday or it’s standardized testing week.

Sensory rooms can address the need for relaxation, stimulation, socialization or sensory integration. When creating a sensory room, you may want to focus on tactile needs, proprioception, taste or smell integration, or simply play time.

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