Parents can create a Snoezelen experience at home

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By merging imagination with such items as pillows, wind chimes and holiday mini lights, caregivers can create a sensory experience in their own homes.

The therapeutic benefits of a multi-sensory experience for people who have special needs have been well-documented. People who access Snoezelen rooms, which incorporate a plethora of lights, sounds and textures, are able to explore the world at their own leisure and reap the benefits of relaxation or gentle stimulation, says the Snoezelen co-ordinator at the Bloorview MacMillan Children's Centre in Toronto.

The Snoezelen concept originated in Holland in the late 1970s.

"The word "Snoezelen" first came into play through Dutch therapists Jan Hulsegge and Ad Verheul, who worked at the De Hartenburg Centre for adults with severe developmental disabilities," notes Lorraine Thomas, Bloorview's Snoezelen co-ordinator, in an e-mail interview.

Lorraine was involved in developing North America's first Snoezelen pool at the children's centre. She now supervises the community-based Snoezelen room and pool, along with providing information and tours. She also provides Snoezelen training for caregivers and staff who access the room and travels to facilities and provides hands-on training and education about Snoezelen.

Lorraine also shares with parents how to create multi-sensory experiences in their own homes.

"Creating a multi-sensory environment at home enables you to create a setting in which you can stimulate or relax your child, depending on his or her needs," says Lorraine.

"While Snoezelen is not currently considered therapy, it can have therapeutic effects: each child (or) individual responds differently as their senses of sight, smell, sound and touch are challenged," she says. "For example, a passive child may become more willing to explore his or her surroundings, while a hyperactive child may be calmed by the atmosphere of the room. Snoezelen works best on those with moderate to high sensory needs."

{mospagebreak}Lorraine adds, when used appropriately, a sensory environment can help develop communication, concentration and social skills, among other potential benefits. Parents can craft the experience in a room or corner of their home by purchasing ordinary items in local stores. The transformation can be accomplished at a reasonable cost, she adds.

In a handout, adapted by Marusia Heney, child life specialist, and Lorraine, they offer the following suggestions:

The sensory environment should be developed in an empty space in the home. If using a corner of a room, use a black or white shower curtain to block off the area.
Begin by covering the floor with soft and comfortable items like exercise mats, carpet, pillows or bean bags. Parents can also use a comfortable chair or sofa and a table for sensory items, Lorraine says.

In a dark corner, string holiday mini lights or use bubble lamps, black fluorescent lights or bendable light tubes to provide the light source.

While creating the room, use fluorescent paint to paint constellations on the ceiling or on a sheet. Make and hang colourful mobiles, wind chimes or rain sticks, she recommends.

To stimulate the nostrils, use aromatherapy fans or use an aromatic air freshener that plugs into an electrical socket.

Select relaxing music such as classical or rainforest sounds and have on hand scented body lotion or aromatherapy oil for massage.

When it comes to purchasing toys, choose ones that have "a cause and effect," Lorraine notes. These are objects that light up, vibrate, make noise or have a tactile feel, she says. Even balloons filled with rice can be effective, she adds.

A sound therapy machine that creates soft sounds like a waterfall, nature, rain and canoeing on a river can also be incorporated.

To stimulate the taste buds, introduce a variety of flavours of foods and liquids. "Consider doing themes," says Lorraine. For example, "use orange scented aromatherapy oil, use an orange light bulb to change the lighting effect (and) introduce the sensation and pleasure of eating an orange."

Click here if you want to know more about Lorraine Thomas as an author.

Source: Family net




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