Autism (12)

Controlled multisensory stimulation, or Snoezelen, is a therapeutic regime for people with severe mental disabilities. Such sensory integration therapies have been used in the therapy of patients with Autism, Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders since the 1970s. They were developed in the Netherlands and are particularly popular in Germany, involving exposure to soothing and/or stimulating light, color, scents and music in carefully controlled environment, sometimes called a Snoezelen room.

In a room illuminated only by a lightup ball pit, colorful tubes, fiber-optic ropes draped over a swinging chair and psychedelic patterns projected on the walls, 3-year-old A.J. Gaskin sprints from corner to corner, giggling with delight.


Children with autism or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) often have difficulty regulating sensory input from the environment. These sensory related problems include increased sensitivity to certain sounds, smells, tastes and touch.

Autism describes a spectrum of disorders that range in severity of symptoms and presentation of features. These features impact on a person’s ability to interact socially, relate to others and communicate. People with autism may also experience over or under sensitivity to sound, touch, taste, smell and light. In most cases the characteristics of autism emerge between 12 to 36 months of age. There are over half a million people in the UK with autism (Baird et al., 2006) and the prevalence of autism has been on the rise since the early 1990s. There is a need to provide appropriate sensory stimulation in order to facilitate and develop communication, whilst providing a sensory environment that addresses sensory processing needs.

 Linda Messbauer has recently been featured on the She Knows Parenting web site, in an article that details the creation and use of a Multi-Sensory Environment.

The new DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) include sensory disturbances in addition to the well-established language, communication, and social deficits. One sensory disturbance seen in ASD is an impaired ability to integrate multisensory information into a unified percept. This may arise from an underlying impairment in which individuals with ASD have difficulty perceiving the temporal relationship between cross-modal inputs, an important cue for multisensory integration. Such impairments in multisensory processing may cascade into higher-level deficits, impairing day-to-day functioning on tasks, such as speech perception.


Lennie Latham has worked with children with sensory issues for more than 15 years without seeing a state-of-the-art multi-sensory environment (MSE) room quite like the one she now manages — and that she hopes will become a model for parents, educators and caregivers nationwide.

Joshua* used to start his school days bouncing off the walls. The 16-year-old, who attends the LEAP Program (Lifeskills and Education for Students with Autism and other Pervasive Developmental Disorders) at Baltimore's Kennedy-Krieger Institute, rides a bus for more than an hour to participate in the highly regarded day program. The long trip made Joshua so agitated that most of the first half of his day was spent calming him down.

Copyright © 2006 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.

Effects of a Snoezelen room on the behavior of three autistic clients

Children with autism often do not interact well with the world around them; being unable to understand events in their immediate surroundings and lacking any sense of an ability to control or direct events. This inability to interact inhibits their mental development; precisely the problem that MEDIATE was designed to help overcome.

A Multisensory Environment Design for an Interface between Autistic and Typical Expressiveness


Young autistic children do not communicate with the rest of us and we do not have access to their autistic world and their autistic experience. Misunderstandings are at present mutual.


To design, produce, build, and validate an intelligent, immersive, multisensory, interactive environment that reacts to the unique user, and allows that user to create expressions of their own sensory experience: creations which can be replayed and communicated to others. This environment will be a transportable.

These experiments explored whether behavioral improvements observed during Snoezelen OT treatment sessions generalized beyond the session to two different settings for a person with moderate intellectual disability, autism and severe challenging behaviors. Experiment 1 explored engagement during a functional task immediately following the treatment sessions while Experiment 2 explored changes in the frequencies of two challenging behaviors on the days after treatment sessions. Investigators found generalization to both post-session engagement as well as to the daily frequency of two challenging behaviors on days following the OT sessions