multisensory environment pik figure imageMultisensory Environment subheader image

Currently time has been spent getting four Ryan’s Way group homes into operation. Ryan’s Way Buena Vista was the first opened in July 2005 followed by Rancho Del Rey in June 2007, Bonita Vista March 2009 and Aveley Place that had been previously owned by Rady Children’s Hospital in February 2010. The first three houses are within a mile of each other but the fourth is about 20 miles away. Currently there are thre transport vans available for excursions into the community. There has been a great deal of time spent on staff training, time to understand each resident /consumer*  and purchasing of basic sensory equipment.  Each house has some sensory equipment but currently there is no dedicated room that is set apart.  On June 9, 2010, it was decided to develop mobile multisensory units at each house that can be taken to a consumer's room and to utilize each house's special features. One house has sufficient room and backyard with a deck for a larger sensory garden and sensory room. Another house has a great deal of musical equipment and switch activated instruments; another house has a Somatron Vibrating Music Cushion, a rocking cushion and a bubble column, and the fourth house has a lot of switch activated equipment. The immediate goal is to get staff input and assistance in setting up each house and to educate the caregivers about sensory systems and sensory processing, the consumer’s individual sensory patterns, and the use of the equipment that is available.  This involves learning when and how to use it, the use of switch technology and also how to take care of the equipment such as accessible storage and removing batteries to prevent corrosion.

In October 2010, I will attending the 8th International ISNA (International Snoezelen Association) Symposium in Alabama. I want to aquire information as to the latest information on multisensory environments and meet the people whose literature I hve reviewed.


“A Multi Sensory Environment (MSE) is a dedicated space or room where multiple sensory stimulation is used as an educational tool or recreational activity for individuals with severe disabilities in order to increase brain activity and as a result, enrich their lives. These rooms are designed with two goals in mind: to promote intellectual activity and to encourage relaxation. These controlled environments are designed for active or passive interaction, and matched to fit the perceived motivation, interests, leisure, relaxation and/or educational needs of the user”,
The Multi Sensory Environment is also associated with the Snoezelen™ rooms. This concept , activity with relaxation, was developed in 1987  by A. Verheul and J. Hulsegge in The Netherlands as a leisure facility for people with profound and multiple disabilities for them to use their senses of tocuh, smell, seeing and listening tp discovdre the worl and teir own body and therby make new positive experiences. There is also an occupational therapist, Linda Messbauer, who has contributed considerably to mutlisensry environements in the United States that wil be speaking at this symposium.

Fowler (2008) expands this definition to the multisensory rooms being “artificially engineered environments consisting of pieces of multisensory equipment that are used to set up a specific mood in the room where activities and experiences of a sensory nature can take place. When used in a controlled way, they can help people with profound and multiple disabilities make the most of skills they have by eliminating distractions and providing an environment that helps them interact with specific objects an people.” p.13

Fowler (2008) also reminds readers that multisensory experiences do occur in a wider context than the dedicated room. But to avoid the possibility of chaos and unpredictability  when sensory environments are set up in a misguided manner and not chosen for each consumer on an individual basis according to their needs, a distressing overwhelming situation can occur for some people “struggle to make sense of an over-stimulating environment”  This is the reasoning behind structured environments and the importance of thorough staff training. p. 14

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Fowler, S.  (2008) Multisensory rooms and environments: Controlled sensory experiences for people      with Profound and Multiple Disabilities. Philadelphia:  Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Fowler, S. (1997)  Sensory Stimulation: Sensory-Focused Activities for People with Physical and Multiple Disabilities.  Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Verheul, Ad. ( 2007) Snoezelen Materials Homemade.  The Netherlands: Ede.