By Kevin Hampson, Daily Herald-Tribune
May 6, 2018
A Grande Prairie community support centre has acquired a futuristic “sensory stimulation room,” designed as a therapy for people with conditions such as autism, dementia and brain injury.
Mountain Plains Community Services Society of the North recently opened a Snoezelen room, developed in the 1970s in the Netherlands. It’s the first “community accessible Snoezelen room” in northern Alberta, according to a release.
While the most common use of the room is to help people with cognitive disabilities, it can be beneficial for everybody, said Jessica Beauchamp, Mountain Plains’ executive director.
“It can help anything from a really acute anxiety and stress relief to quite impactful differences to improve alertness or increase communication.”
Mountain Plains opened in 1972 and provides outreach and residential programs for high-risk youth, vulnerable individuals and people with developmental disabilities.
In a Snoezelen therapy room, patients have control over the stimulation they receive from equipment such as bubble tubes, projected images, aromas, vibrations, music and fibre optics.
“I can turn on or off all the different tools in the room as needed, so that the individual is able to create an environment (he or she) has control over,” Beauchamp said.
“Individuals who have these disabilities, they often can’t filter all the different stimuli they experience in the world as we live in it. In a room like this we’re able to give them that level of control.”
Being in the room gives them a sense of control and allows them to calm down, she said. People with severe mental disabilities who can’t talk may even start to communicate using their voice.
According to the Snoezelen website, spending time in the rooms can help people with sensory processing disorder (SPD), often associated with autism and dementia. The disorder happens when the brain has trouble processing information received through the senses, sometimes making people over-sensitive to things that most people wouldn’t even notice, such as the touch of clothing on their skin. Alternatively, it can also make them under-sensitive.
Snoezelen also touts benefits for young children, such as “developing sensory processing,” improving fine and gross motor skills, and enabling professionals and parents to watch and assess a child’s ability levels in an informal manner.
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