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Multi-sensory room finally comes to fruition

FORT FRANCES—There’s an oasis located inside the local Family and Children’s Services office, complete with shimmering lights, soothing music, and appealing aromas.

To some, it might look just like a simple white room with colourful objects scattered about. But for individuals with disabilities or developmental delays, this “oasis” offers a way for nurturing sensory integration.

The multi-sensory room, designed to engage and stimulate the clients’ senses, officially was opened last Wednesday evening.

“It’s wonderful,” enthused Joanne Davis, a child development worker at FACS who has a daughter with cerebral palsy. “For a community this size, we’re pretty lucky to have this.”

Davis offered tours of the small room, highlighting some of the items that help to provide a wide range of sensory experiences for the individual.

She pointed out the colourful lights, the black light, a bubble tube, an aroma machine, the music, the mirrors, a massage chair, and many textured objects.

“When they come in here, there’s nothing going on. They come in and turn things on themselves,” Davis explained.

“Children with disabilities go through their lives not being able to control their environment and here they are able to control things,” she added. “They choose which things they want to use.”

Davis noted there’s even a swing in the room for non-mobile clients to experience the fascinating visual displays, gentle vibrations, and pleasant sounds.

She added the room is decorated completely in white so it doesn’t distract from the objects, sights, or sounds.

Nula Reid, an occupational therapist for the Child Development Centre in Kenora, gave a presentation illustrating the uses and benefits of a multi-sensory room, also known as a Snoezelen environment.

She explained an atmosphere such as this offers the client and caregiver an opportunity to improve communications and build trust in their relationship.

As well, the user can learn to focus and relax, which develops coping skills for the real world in which they live.

“It’s not used to perform therapy, it’s for the client to explore,” Reid stressed. “It’s a unique approach to treatment.”

Reid noted the enabler (parent/caregiver) who uses the room with the individual plays a large role in facilitating the experience of the multi-sensory room.

“They are there to recognize the client’s choices and offer encouragement,” she explained, adding the enabler will observe the individual’s behaviour and how their senses react to the different items in the room.

“Behaviour is always communication—you have to wait and see what it’s telling you.”

Reid said sensory processing happens naturally by the way the room is set up.

“There are a lot of possibilities . . . but you must present the sensory stimuli slowly,” she warned, noting the enabler should introduce items one at a time, wait five minutes, and observe the individual’s reaction in order to find the appropriate amount and type of stimulation.

For instance, a client who’s prone to seizures would have their enabler monitoring the stimuli items with lights. In other cases, the enabler would watch for aversive reactions to sensory stimulation, like biting, giddiness, sweating, or sleepiness.

But Reid said the multi-sensory room can be a positive reinforcement of sensory processing for individuals with different disorders, such as over-responsivity, under-responsivity, sensory seekers, and those with sensory-based motor problems.

“It can be beneficial for anyone, from geriatrics to little people,” Davis remarked. “It’s a really exciting addition.”

She noted the idea to incorporate a multi-sensory room into FACS was brought up about five or six years ago, and it finally all came together with the help from the staff and contributors.

For more information on the new multi-sensory room, contact FACS at 274-7787.

(Fort Frances Times)

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