Building a sensory room doesn’t require expanding your home – you can easily transform a playroom, bedroom or unused area into one!
Sensory stimulation at home can help children avoid meltdowns. Visual input such as lava lamps and bubble tubes may provide visual comfort, while vestibular input such as swinging, exercise balls or wobble boards offer vestibular stimulation.
Sensory rooms typically create a soothing ambience by employing soft lighting such as lava lamps, bubble tubes and string lights to produce an ambient glow. Blue and green hues have shorter wavelengths that won’t cause as much stimulation to the brain compared with more vibrant hues such as red.
Visual items, like a ball pit and exercise balls, provide proprioceptive input that helps improve balance and coordination. Other solutions may include vibrating cushions, textured walls, water beds or disco lights that can be activated via switches to help meet IEP or learning goals.
Auditory input is also an integral element of sensory rooms. Some children respond well to soothing music or sounds such as white noise; others find loud music irritating. If your child reacts negatively to sound, consult an occupational therapist about which sensory experiences will best benefit them; additionally, please keep in mind that every individual with autism responds differently – hence why each sensory room should be tailored specifically towards individual needs.
Establishing the ideal atmosphere in your sensory room begins by selecting equipment and objects that suit individual needs. While visual stimulation might work best for some people, others require tactile input – there are plenty of choices available!
Fiber optic lighting kits provide great visual stimulation. Available from many online retailers, this lighting option will add a stunning glow to any space. Furthermore, consider adding lava lamps, bubble tubes, holiday or string lights or even an elaborate sky cosmos lighting machine into the mix for maximum visual stimulation.
Rocking chairs or concentration rockers can help those with oversensitive vestibular processing to relax. Wobble boards provide tactile input and can serve as seats, balance surfaces or climbing aids – simple yet effective pieces of equipment which can be found for less than $100.
A sensory room provides children with a safe haven from our overstimulated world and allows them to practice self-regulation. It may involve simply sectioning off part of an existing room or something more involved such as adding tents.
Some parents opt for an indoor playground gym that folds away when not in use; others favor swings, trampolines or any outdoor equipment that helps stimulate vestibular stimulation; bubble tubes provide visual sensory stimulation as an additional sensory option for visual sensory seeking children.
Other sensory tools may include a rocking chair, exercise balls (I recommend ones that are crush-resistant!), weighted items like these sensory animals with reversible sequins and noise-cancelling headphones – along with small portable items to help calm down when necessary. A bag containing these tools may even be carried with them outside to public places to help de-escalate and prevent meltdowns – an important factor considering sensory rooms can also be used outside their own environments.
Sounds can be an enormous source of distress for children with overactive sensory systems, causing television sounds, the flushing toilet or conversations from other family members to become overwhelming. Being able to use headphones can provide significant relief to these children who feel overburdened.
Items for your home sensory room will depend entirely on who it’s being created for – be that children or adults alike. While many families designate an entire room as their sensory zone, you could also dedicate part of a living area or even just a storage closet as their sensory zone.
Based on your goals, equipment like a therapeutic swing or ball pit may provide proprioceptive input; exercise balls may promote core strength development as well as vestibular stimulation. Furthermore, an interactive projection system such as Budii offers various activities, games and animations that children can engage in either alone or together with friends.