Meeting People’s Sensory Needs: An Occupational Therapist’s Perspective


Jennifer Beal shares the outcomes of a Quality Improvement project to embed sensory interventions into an adult mental health service.


Sensory interventions can be described as complex interventions that include a wide range of elements, although the ‘active ingredients’ can be difficult to specify.

The literature indicates sensory interventions offer a collaborative approach, facilitate personal discovery and empower service users to take ownership and responsibility for their recovery journey.

The DSM-5 defines borderline personality disorder as a long-term pattern of abnormal behaviour, characterised by unstable relationships with other people, unstable sense of self and unstable emotions (American Psychiatric Association).

Many people with borderline personality disorder report feeling overwhelmed with daily life stresses (Korfine and Hooley, 2000; Domes et al., 2006). And studies have indicated that individuals with borderline personality disorder have sensory processing preferences with increased sensory sensitivity and avoidance responses (Brown et al., 2009).

Self-harm is a behaviour in which an individual injures themselves as a way of coping with intensely distressing feelings. Head banging is a common form of self-harm, linked to numerous negative outcomes, including significant brain damage. Head banging is clinically associated with personality disorders (Sensone and Wiederman, 2013).


Our Local Problem

Our hospital compliance data indicated there was a high rate of head banging within the personality disorder service. In August 2022, 12 of the 15 patients engaged in head banging. Using Root Cause Analysis (RCA) we were able to understand the problem, the factors involved and the possible causes of the problem.

Head banging negatively impacts progress through the care pathway and treatment outcomes. Documentation indicated that 80% of the ward population engaged in head banging; incident records suggested that this behaviour occurred on the ward and that a high occurrence was seen in communal areas such as the ward balcony.

More incidents were also identified in the evening than during the day. Records also showed how staff responded and attempted verbal de-escalation. If these strategies were unsuccessful hands-on restraint occurred.

A Quality Improvement (QI) project was proposed to improve clinical outcomes, with a systematic process to focus on:

  • Environmental improvements (physical space and resources)
  • Developing staff knowledge and skills (sensory modulation and proactivity)
  • Patient empowerment with personalised strategies


Intended Improvements

The QI project, which was completed as part of the Level 5 Leadership and Management Diploma, set out to introduce sensory interventions to the service to improve the quality of de-escalation, to support the global priority to reduce and, if possible, eliminate the use of restrictive practices (DH 2014) and to improve the patient experience.


The Setting

The service in question is an 18-bed speciality tier four personality disorder service that admits women if they have a diagnosis of personality disorder, exhibit self-harming behaviours and are able to accept the need for help. The occupancy level was at 15 for the duration of the QI project.

Patients can be detained under the Mental Health Act, or it can be informal. The multidisciplinary team works together with the women to provide a holistic, comprehensive assessment and care plan. The treatment regime typically includes medication, dialectical behavioural therapy, interpersonal groups and goal-focused strategies.


Planning The Intervention

The QI project was planned to address the clinical outcomes for the general ward milieu by introducing sensory interventions.

Education sessions on sensory modulation were provided for all multidisciplinary staff (face-to-face or virtual). The training included environmental influences that may increase anxiety and disorganised behaviours, information on sensory processing difficulties and helpful strategies, and understanding one’s own sensory input and the benefits of more centred staff.

An evaluation tool was created to capture self-rating of knowledge, skills and confidence before and after the training. A ticket to access the visiting sensory trailer was provided after the training.

There was a sensory awareness group (a six-week course) to introduce strategies and resources to support patients to self-regulate their sensory input. This group also supported self-management with the creation of sensory boxes and sensory ladders.

Sensory resources were introduced to provide environments to help patients manage overstimulating sensory input and self-soothe. These resources were moved from the occupational therapy department to the ward resource cupboard. Sensory items were risk-assessed to support patients purchasing items for their bedrooms, and a safety pod was also purchased as an alternative to physical intervention.

A portable sensory room visit was arranged with an external company for staff and patients to try out equipment and discuss their experiences. All patients on the ward were invited to visit the sensory trailer. This supported patient and public involvement in the project to influence and shape the introduction of sensory interventions.

And finally, a proposal was submitted to develop the ward’s quiet room into a sensory room.


Intervention and Feedback

Quantitative and qualitative data from before and after the project were compared to analyse staff education, patient perspectives and KPI compliance to:

  • Reduce the number of coercive interventions (restraint)
  • Improve the quality of de-escalation
  • Reduce the number of self-harm incidents
  • Improve self-management (distress management)
  • Improve performance and participation in activities of daily living

A range of sensory interventions took place within the QI project period (November 2022 – July 2023).

Staff education provided an opportunity to discuss the relevance and role of sensory strategies in adult mental health, and the sessions were well attended, with positive feedback. Evaluation forms to rate people’s knowledge, skills and confidence before and after indicated improved ratings for all participants on the Likert scales.

A ward-based sensory awareness group was set up to engage patients in activities that ground, calm and maintain alertness, and patients shared the impact of sensory sensitivity and sensory avoidance on occupational engagement. Tools were introduced to support self-identification of sensory ‘needs; and support to execute adaptive behaviours.

Sensory resources were purchased to improve the ward environment and to help individuals manage sensory input. Patients purchased lights, fidget toys and aroma diffusers for their bedrooms. The safety pod was used proactively with one patient instead of restraint.

The mobile sensory room was a popular event, and attendees shared their resource requests to set up a ward sensory room. These included light panels, tactile resources and a mobile trolley to meet a range of sensory needs.

Overall, the project led to a significant reduction in head banging incidents over the period. A further valuable finding was the reduction in incidents after 5 p.m., while a significant reduction in the use of restraint was also documented.

Staff and patients were all positive about the project, with people commenting: ‘I enjoyed the sensory group and have purchased items for my bedroom’; ‘Sensory ladders are helpful and help to share how I feel and what I need’; ‘I find fidget toys keep me calm and help me focus in ward rounds’; ‘The trailer was amazing, I hope we can reduce ward chaos with this equipment’; and ‘All staff should have sensory training’.

The data collected during the project on restraint usage and the number of incidents shows that both have been significantly reduced, and this change could be due to staff education on new strategies for de-escalation, new resources being made available to support the provision of calm, safe spaces, and the introduction of sensory interventions.

We noted several limitations to this project that have an impact on the reported outcomes, including that the project was undertaken on a single ward. The impact of unidentified and unexplored contextual and organisational factors also remains unknown.

Sensory intervention within occupational therapy is an ‘emerging practice’, and this project supports further investigations to strengthen the evidence-based practice in this field. Locally, we hope to build on these positive findings with the development of a sensory room and embed the sensory strategy training into the staff introduction programme.



American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed), American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.

Brown S, Shankar R, Smith K (2009) Borderline personality disorder and sensory processing, Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry

Department of Health (2014) Positive and proactive care: reducing the need for restrictive interventions.  London, Crown Publications

Domes G, Winter B, Schell K, Cohsi K, Fast K, Herpertzi S. (2006). The influence of emotions on inhibitory functioning in borderline personality disorder. Psychological Medicine, Aug;36(8): 1163-72

Korfine L, Hooley JM (2000) Directed forgetting of emotional stimuli in borderline personality disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 109(2): 214-21

Sensone R, Widerman M (2013) Head banging: Relationships with borderline personality symptomatology. Innovative Clinical Neuroscience. 10(1): 10-11


Jennifer Beal, Head of Occupational Therapy, Beckton Hospital, Blackheath Hospital and Lewisham Lodge, MSc Occupational Therapy and PG Cert Sensory Integration.

Get in touch with our sensory team to find out more about our work in mental health centres.


Creating An Anti-Ligature Sensory Room

What Is Anti-Ligature?

Anti-ligature, in its simplest form, means that something cannot be used by someone to ligature (bind or tie).

Ligatures pose a risk in many different environments, especially those where people would wish to self-harm. Therefore, it’s important that spaces are safe from ligature risk.

Anti-Ligature Sensory Rooms are specially designed spaces that pose no or very low ligature risk. Sensory Resources in these spaces are typically firmly embedded in walls and ceilings or covered with robust casing so that they’re safe and out of the way, ready for sensory play!

Anti-Ligature sensory room in a mental health environment. With LED Sky Ceiling panels, bubble tube, and soft sensory wall and floor padding.


Where Are Anti-Ligature Sensory Rooms Needed?

Even though Anti-Ligature Sensory Rooms are specialist spaces, many environments can benefit from their secure designs.

From SEN Schools that need to protect vulnerable students to Mental Health Centres where patients may be at a higher risk of self-harm. Choosing an anti-ligature sensory room is a great way to ensure safety and comfort.

Suitable Environments For Anti-Ligature Sensory Rooms:

  • Mental Health Centres
  • Hospitals
  • Secure Children’s Homes
  • Supported Living Facilities
  • SEN Schools
  • Prisons

Anti-Ligature sensory room in a mental health environment. Immersive reality room with cosy beanbags and distracting bubble wall.


Why Are Sensory Rooms Needed In These Environments?

Sensory Rooms are an asset for ligature-risk settings as they provide a neutral space to find calm, therapeutically relax, and reset.

Classically, sensory rooms are used by children with autism to help rebalance their senses and self-regulate their behaviour.

But sensory rooms have lots of other clinical benefits:

  • Improving Mental Health & Wellbeing
    • Sensory Rooms offer a safe space away from wards, busy classrooms and clinical settings. They’re controlled environments where individuals can customise their experience to suit their needs. Whether that’s dimming the lights, putting on their favourite playlist, or watching Netflix on a big projector screen.
    • It gives people the space to spend time with themselves without the judgement of others – so they can find calm and relax, boosting their mental health and wellbeing.
  • Effective at De-Escalation
    • Whether it’s other people, settings or stimulants, it’s essential that individuals on the verge of an incident can quickly and safely de-escalate.
    • Sensory Rooms offer a neutral space for individuals to release their emotions safely and independently. Soft padding creates a safe and cosy backdrop for physical outbursts; bubble tubes and sensory lights stimulate and distract anxious minds, whilst soft rocking chairs offer individuals a place to actively work out their worries.
  • Reducing Self Harm
    • With a safe space to effectively de-escalate and support their mental health, it’s been found that individuals who have access to sensory rooms are less likely to self-harm.
    • Academics agree that sensory rooms in mental health settings reduce distress and reduce the need for seclusion and restraint (Machingura et al. 2018; Scanlan & Novack 2015; Oostermeijer et al. 2021)

Anti-Ligature sensory room in a mental health environment. With vibrating bumpers, cosy beanbag seating, LED Wall Wash and safety floor and wall padding.


Who Can Use Anti-Ligature Sensory Rooms?

  • Patients: To regulate their behaviour, relax, socialise and spend their free time
  • Staff: To work with patients and for their own mental health breaks
  • Families: For visits and meetings


How Do You Make A Sensory Room Ligature Safe?

Making a sensory room ligature safe isn’t too hard of a task. It just requires forward thinking, planning and a team of sensory specialists!

With an anti-ligature sensory room design, you need to make sure there are:

  • No Ligature Points
    • House resources in robust casing, or swap out classic products for ligature-safe ones (e.g. swapping fibre optics for LED wall wash lights)
  • Minimal Gaps Between Products & Walls
    • Ensure resources sit flush against walls or the ceiling or are securely embedded into safety padding.
  • Small Perforations In Ventilation Grills
    • Give radiators + electronic items space to breathe without creating new ligature risks.
  • Minimal Joints
    • Create bespoke sensory areas that are firmly fitted and made for use. This may include boxing in resources or designing made-to-measure furniture.
  • Hard-Wearing Equipment That Can’t Be Broken Or Weaponised
    • Our collection of sensory resources is robust and made for tough sensory play. See below which items we’d recommend for anti-ligature sensory rooms.
  • No Obstructions
    • The room doesn’t have any sharp edges or corners – whether that’s done with clever design, safety padding or corner protectors.

If you’re thinking about creating an anti-ligature sensory room in your environment, get in touch with a member of our friendly sensory team! They’ll be more than happy to get you started on your sensory journey.


What Sensory Equipment Should I Put In An Anti-Ligature Sensory Room?

When it comes to celebrating senses, an anti-ligature sensory room should be no different to a standard one. Sensory Rooms should stimulate, calm and engage all five senses in a controlled and personal manner, safely and comfortably.

It’s crucial to choose robust sensory resources that pose little or no ligature risk and are safe for sensory play.

Our sensory team, alongside the Director of Occupational Therapy at Cygnet, have put together our top resources suitable for anti-ligature sensory environments.

  • Interactive Wall Panels
    • Interactive Wall Panels are highly engaging multi-sensory panels that stimulate visual, tactile, sound and cognitive senses.
    • These can be installed closely to walls or embedded into padding, significantly reducing ligature risk.
  • Interactive Floor or Wall Projection
    • Sitting high on ceilings, our interactive projectors instantly create magical interactive worlds on floors and walls. They encourage individuals to get active and use their bodies and senses to engage with the projected games and activities.
    • Safely kept out of the way, these projectors are an ideal all-in-one sensory aid for anti-ligature sensory rooms.
  • Wall Wash
    • LED Wall Wash strips bathe areas in calming sensory mood lighting. They allow individuals the opportunity to create a colourful environment to match their mood.
    • Sitting flush against the wall and ceiling, they’re kept up high and away from curious hands.
  • Therapy Rockers
    • Offer individuals a cosy place to sit, relax, and work out their worries.
    • Made from robust, zip-free, hard-wearing materials with heavy use in mind.
  • Vibrating Bumpers
    • A soft, padded bumpy wall that vibrates when touched. They’re a great interactive piece of soft play equipment to add to therapeutic environments.
    • Made to measure interactive bumpers provide sustained gentle vibrations that soothe proprioceptive systems and calm minds.

Remember! Every sensory room should be unique. When choosing equipment, it’s important that you choose resources that are suitable for your staff and end users. Get in touch with our friendly sensory team for more information.


Further Information

*Not all images in this blog represent Anti-Ligature Sensory Rooms. Some are calming rooms or de-escalation spaces in mental health environments. For more information get in touch with our friendly sensory team 🙂

5 Things We Learned From The Paediatric Dental Health Conference


In March, we were invited to attend the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry’s Study Day in Cardiff.

Dr Rohini Mohan, Swansea Bay’s Clinical Lead for Community Dental Services, invited us to listen to her presentation about caring for patients with sensory difficulties.

Over the past year, Rohini and her colleague Bethan Morgan have been conducting a study into the use of sensory resources in making treatments more accessible for younger patients with special needs, autism and sensory processing difficulties. One of our Sensory Voyagers has been a key part of her study, and Rohini was keen for us to bring one to the conference so her colleagues could see its sensory magic in person.

We had a fantastic day at the event. And to make sure you don’t miss out, we’ve put together the top 5 things we learned from Rohini’s presentation.

1. Hospital settings are naturally overwhelming environments.

Everyday spaces we take for granted can be sensory nightmares for children with sensory issues.

Hospitals, with their bright lights, white walls, busy corridors, and odd smells and sounds, create an unusually overstimulating environment that can be difficult for people with sensory processing issues to digest.

“Unknowingly, we have been hampering how we deliver care to children who experience sensory issues,” Rohini explained. “Sensory environments within hospitals are out of our control. We should be doing more to make our treatment environments accessible.”

2. We like to talk about inclusivity, but are we always being inclusive?

Making treatment environments more accessible for patients with sensory processing issues is crucial to inclusivity. Although Bethan was keen to point out that “other barriers to dental care can make it difficult for autistic patients to receive treatment.”

These include cognitive and physical disabilities, difficulty with communication, and anxiety, which is one of the main issues in access to dental services, especially for people with learning difficulties.

Rohini Delivers Her Presentation

3. Thank You, Wendy Sparkle!

After catching sight of one of our portable Sensory Voyager trollies wheeling around Bridgend Hospital, Rohini came up with the idea to use the Sensory Voyager to calm and relax patients before their treatment.

Wendy Sparkle, one of the hospital’s play specialists, explained to Rohini what the Voyager was, what it could do, and how it would be helpful for children with additional needs.

Rohini asked if she could borrow it, and Wendy agreed, kickstarting Rohini’s big inclusive sensory experiment.

Sensory Voyager in Dental Treatment Room

4. The Sensory Voyager ‘Worked Like Magic’

After using the Sensory Voyager in her clinic for just over a year, Rohi and her team concluded that the sensory trolley had made a hugely positive impact on the levels of care they could provide to children with additional needs.

“Our patients were so focused on the voyager, they didn’t get too agitated, and they were happy to sit around and play with the fibre optics, watch the lights, watch the bubbles go up and down – it was amazing.”

  • Anxiety from patients in the waiting room went from yellow and red (highly anxious), to green (calm) during treatment.
  • 96% saw a change in their behaviour/ feelings when using the sensory unit, and 100% said it was a positive change.
  • 91% completed their treatment, and 100% felt like the sensory Voyager played a part in that success.
  • 100% would like to use the Voyager in the future.

5. A Sensory Success Story

Since completing their study, Rohini and her team have adopted another Sensory Voyager trolley. So now they have two twinkling units rolling through their clinic!

Not only are the trollies used by patients with autism or special needs, but they’re used with patients who may be simply feeling anxious before they go in for treatment.

At the end of the day, we just want to make everybody’s lives easier. Ours, the parents, and the patients,” Rohini explained.

Young Child Plays with the Sensory Voyager

Rohini and her team will be conducting more research into the clinical use of Sensory Voyagers in treatment settings to expand their studies and explore the broader consequences of using sensory as a therapeutic distraction method.

And we can’t wait to see how far the Voyager’s magic can flow!

Find out more about our portable Sensory Voyagers. And if you have any questions about the use of sensory equipment in treatment clinics, make sure you get in touch with a member of our friendly sensory team 🙂

The Benefits of Sensory Activities & Engagement in Care Homes

After 18 months of limited contact, connections and conversations, there has never been a greater need for enriching engagement for residents in care homes. According to a recent study, one in six over 65-year-olds admitted that they were more worried about loneliness than they were Covid-19, highlighting the threat of a new wellbeing epidemic across the care sector.

Just like remembering to make sure you’ve always got a mask and a bottle of hand sanitiser on hand, there are lots of simple steps that you can take in your care home to create stimulating, engaging, and encouraging environments for your residents. Carry on reading to find out what you can do and how improving engagement could not only benefit the wellbeing of your residents but your staff and your care home too.

Person Centred Care

Before the coronavirus epidemic hit, there had been a growing push toward engagement led care plans in care homes. ‘Person Centred Care’ was a strategy introduced by the Department of Health in 2013 to encourage care homes to offer residents the same level of support as they would if they were living in their own homes. It’s a concept that expects residents to be treated like the individuals they are, where considerations about their history, personality, and abilities are used to craft bespoke care plans that will effectively support their mental and physical health.

Meaningful Activities

A 2019 study researching care plans in care homes found that 60% of respondents believed that by 2023 their main treatment focus would be wellbeing over the provision of care based only on diagnosis. Stemming from this is the recent trend in Meaningful Activities.

Meaningful Activities are defined by how they help a resident live each day with purpose. Whether that’s looking after the flowers in their garden, organising a monthly coffee morning to raise money for a local charity, or creating a memory box filled with treasured items. They can be big or small, exciting or practical, social or individual, but what’s most important is that they’re personal.

Meaningful Activities are most effective when they’re personal and aligned with residents’ hobbies and interests; active, where residents can physically interact with something instead of passively experiencing it; and routine, to provide structure and comfort. For example, you may have a resident who once played a prominent role in their local horticultural society; by giving them the opportunity to take care of the flowers in your garden, you’re motivating them regularly go outside and physically tend to the plants. What’s best is that they’ll have something impressive to show for their time working on the plot, instilling a sense of purpose and pride in themselves, which is crucial for supporting health and wellbeing.

Although, purpose is a lot more than personal pride and a short-term wellbeing boost. A 2012 study by the Rush Memory and Aging Project found that care home residents with dementia or other cognitive disabilities who felt they had purpose had a slower rate of cognitive decline and a lower risk of mortality, highlighting the importance of wellbeing not only from a therapeutic position but from a clinical position too. So much so that now in the US, one indication of care home quality is the extent to which residents engage in meaningful activities, proving its prevalence in care.

Meaningful Activities_Blog

Engagement, Entertainment & Meaningful Activities

As the gardening example mentioned before, meaningful activities aren’t necessarily difficult or expensive to set up. Some of the best ones are the simplest ones – here are some stimulating ideas.

For Socialising: ‘Knit and Chat’ Sessions

Knit and Chat sessions are as simple as they sound; all you need are friends, knitting supplies and maybe a couple of cheeky chocolate biscuits. It’s a therapeutic social exercise that involves residents sitting together, knitting, and chatting. Whilst bonding over their shared interests, residents have the opportunity to learn more about their fellow peers, helping them to feel more connected and a part of their care home community and boosting their mental wellbeing.

Knitting is also an excellent activity for those with degenerative mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia, as it relies on muscle memory rather than cognitive memory. Once you’ve picked up a complex physical skill like knitting, you’re unlikely to forget it, which is great for residents who don’t feel confident with their memory. The motion of knitting also activates and develops fine motor skills, which can make residents feel more confident and stronger in their movements and help maintain their independence when holding, lifting, or moving objects.

What’s best is that Knit and Chat sessions can be opened up to the local community for a more wholesome collaborative knitting session. Inviting friends, family, and community members into your care home is a great way to help residents feel less isolated and more connected to those around them. This sort of community-creating activity is actively encouraged by charities like the Alzheimer’s Society, which champion the interconnectivity of care homes and their communities. And to further their prevalence, CQC Guidelines support and encourage care home/community interconnectivity too. Therefore, not only are community knit and chat sessions likely to uplift residents’ moods and minds, but they are also likely to uplift your care home rating too!


For Reminiscence: Reminiscence Therapy

It’s very easy to lose your sense of self when you are removed from your home environment and placed into a clinical space; big moves like this are especially distressing for residents with Dementia or Alzheimer’s. To try and reverse these anxious effects, it’s essential to try and make your care environment as comfortable and familiar as possible. Reminiscence Therapy could be a great place to start.

Reminiscence Therapy is centred around conversation, storytelling, and personal memories. In these interactive therapy sessions, residents are encouraged to use photographs and objects to retell and relive some of their most fond memories. Throughout this process, residents can open up about their lives, share their stories and re-connect with their past selves.

There are lots of ways to support reminiscence therapy sessions. For example, Sensory Projectors can be used to cast old images and videos onto larger surfaces, helping residents feel more connected to their past; vintage board games can be used for a nostalgic games’ afternoon; whilst a morning spent making Memory Boxes filled with precious trinkets and personal items, can be used by residents as a reminder of who they are.

Not only can reminiscence activities help residents feel connected to themselves, but they can also help them to connect to those around them. For example, residents in your home have likely grown up through the same periods of history – whether that’s remembering the Queen’s coronation or watching the first-ever broadcast of Coronation Street – and sitting down and sharing these experiences is likely to bring your residents closer to one another. These growing connections will likely help the sense of community within your home blossom, transforming a once clinical space into a warm home environment.

Reminiscence Therapy

For Getting Active: Chair Yoga

Chair Yoga is a highly recommended activity for care home environments, as it’s effective at boosting the mental and physical health of those who aren’t the most mobile. Carefully planned yoga exercises done from the seat of a chair encourages gentle movement that releases endorphins and increases blood flow, helping residents maintain muscle and feel more confident in how their bodies move.

Group yoga sessions might help alleviate the awkwardness that could come with an individual yoga session and encourage those who might have been too shy to participate.

Chair Yoga in Care Homes

For Relaxing: Sensory Therapy

Active Activities like knitting or yoga may not be the only way to engage your residents; calmer passive activities such as listening to music or sitting in a room illuminated by calming mood lighting could be a more effective way to engage residents. The idea behind this concept is Sensory Therapy, where senses are used to relax the body and the mind.

Senses are the way we experience and understand the world around us. Without them, things can seem dull and grey. For example, think about when you’ve had a cold and lost your sense of taste, and you find that the experience of eating food suddenly goes from enjoyable to incredibly functional. Likewise, in our later years, our sensory systems become less sensitive to outside stimulants (e.g. needing to turn up the volume on your TV to properly hear it), and the world can unwillingly become greyer. Sensory therapy stimulates these under-stimulated senses, uplifts moods, and adds colour to residents’ sensory landscapes.

Just like our senses, Sensory Therapy is multifaceted. There are many ways to effectively stimulate residents ‘ senses, from specially designed multisensory rooms filled with soft furnishings and interactive resources to smaller handheld devices and homemade therapies. Here are two simple ways you could try today.

Mood Lighting

Bright white lights are commonplace in care facilities, they’re practical, but they’re also troublesome, affecting energy levels and sometimes causing migraines. Mood Lighting is an easy and effective way to transform rooms and transfix minds colourfully. Blue, red, and purple lighting can calm residents, whereas greens, oranges and pinks can energise and uplift moods. Mood lighting is also helpful in expressive therapeutic activities, where residents express how they’re feeling through their choice of coloured lighting. It allows carers to get a better idea of their mood and mental health, helping to guide activities that suit their moods and emotions.

Sensory Spas

Bringing a sensory spa to your care home is another practical way to provide engaging, therapeutic activities for your residents. Hand rubs, foot rubs, back massages and facial treatments provide excellent tactile and proprioceptive input, which can be effective at calming muscles, relieving pain, and helping residents feel comfortable and present in their bodies.

You can easily create a more immersive sensory spa experience by stimulating more of bodies senses, like turning down the lights (visual), playing calming music (sound), and using scented oils with the massage treatments (smell). These simple elements brought together help to create a special and personal experience that will make your residents feel important and cared for.

Discover more Sensory Stimulation Activities for Adults.

Reminiscence Room in Care Home

Best All-Rounder: Interactive Projectors

Technology is great at keeping us connected to our friends and family, and it’s also great at keeping us connected to ourselves. Interactive projection isn’t an entirely new concept, but its implementation in care home therapy is starting to gain traction, and there are many good reasons why.

All interactive projectors need to work is a flat space and movement, which gives care environments the flexibility and freedom to project and play wherever best suits their residents, whether that’s on top of a table in the community activity room or directly on top of a resident’s bed. They also come pre-loaded with a library of inclusive games and activities that are designed to support therapeutic movement and improve mental and emotional wellbeing.

Calming interactive activities effectively distract minds and softly encourage movement, as they reward users for their actions. For example, a flower garden activity requires users to wave their hands across a field of flowers to help them bloom. Visual activities like these have encouraged even the most withdrawn residents to express themselves and connect with others, boosting their wellbeing.

On the other hand, active games encourage the development of motor skills and cognitive thinking, whether that’s over a friendly game of ping-pong or a melodic moment on a piano. In addition, the projection effects can instil a sense of confidence in those who may not be able to interact so freely in the physical world, e.g. slowed down ping-pong balls and giant piano keys. A 2020 study by Care Research into the effects of interactive projectors in care homes found that 90% of respondents reported that interacting with a projector positively impacted residents’ physical ability and movements. Whilst a further 80% agreed that the technology had provided more quality social time.

For all the benefits that they can bring, interactive projectors are a worthwhile investment. The same Care Research project found that 85% of respondents used their interactive projector every week and that 39% used it every day, highlighting their functionality in care settings and how they provide engaging, personalised care.

Interactive Projectors in Care Homes


Creating opportunities for meaningful activities takes time, resources, and a whole effort from your care team. It’s not something that can be implemented overnight and can take weeks or even months to start running effectively and smoothly but remember that time effort will be worth it.

Sensory in Mainstream Education: Webinar Recap

At the end of February, we decided to host our first sensory webinar, ‘Sensory in Mainstream Education’ – to help schools discover the importance of sensory and how it can uplift, support, and develop every member of their school community.

We enlisted the support of sensory icon Richard Hirstwood and sensory education tsar Carol Allen to create a uniquely exciting webinar that would leave you as entertained and informed as a session in a stimulating multi-sensory room would!

The key takeaway: Sensory learning is for everybody; all ages and stages of development can benefit from sensory learning.

But if you’d like a full rundown of the event, you can scroll down to read our summary review and scroll down to the very end to watch the webinar yourself!


“We are sensory beings.”

We are always using our senses to understand the world around us, listening, looking, touching, tasting and smelling so that we can learn more about our environments and, in turn, ourselves.

They say that a picture can paint a thousand words, so what does this photo have to say about sensory?

  • Touch: The feeling of the hard, wood planks she’s sitting on how they feel under her fingers and its contrast to the soft grass below.
  • Sound: Sound of a soft breeze, birds chirping, ducks on the lake ahead of her.
  • Sight: Sun shining across her, creating interesting shadows and patterns across the lawn.
  • Smell: Freshly cut grass and a warm summers breeze.

Activity: Why don’t you consider your current sensory environment? How does it feel, look, smell, and sound like?


“Did you know that only a third of sensory potential is being used in lessons?”

Sensory Gardens: Sensory gardens and outdoor areas are filled with sensory potential. They can be interactive or passive, or both, perfect to suit each and every mood.

    • Grow tasty things that you can eat.
    • Or flowers that smell sweet and relaxing.
    • Install water features to listen to and interact with (they don’t have to be expensive).

Sensory & English: Bring stories to life, add a sparkle of sensory magic, and watch as the characters leap off the page into an exciting interactive 3D story world.

Carol recommends ‘Whoo’s There’ by Heather Zschock, a projective storybook where you can shine a torch through the pages to create interesting shadows on your walls, creating a uniquely engaging sensory experience.

Sensory & Maths: Carol recommends that you make maths tactile, making abstract numbers, theories and symbols make sense in a physical form. Use cubes, blocks, manipulatives, beads, fruit, toys – make numbers mean something to your student. The visual and tactile stimulation from manipulative maths also aids memory, helping to make sense of maths.

“Remember Sensory Preferences”

“It’s important to remember that we all have sensory preferences and that one type of sensory stimulation might work for one person and not another,” Richard explained. Sensory preferences are best described simply – how do you sleep at night? Is the window open or closed? Socks or no socks? The right side of the bed, or the left?

Sensory preferences like these are the same for everyday learning activities and lessons. Remember that one sensory learning environment might work for some and not for others.


Bubble Tubes!

“9 out of 10 times when a learner enters a sensory room, they will head straight towards the Bubble Tube,” Richard joyfully exclaims as he stands near his very own bubbling tube. He explains that humans seem to have a profound connection to water, and because of this, there is something especially interesting about bubbles.  This connection is why Richard believes that Bubble Tubes are one of the best pieces of sensory kit.

“Movement is important, as are unique events – together, they create perfectly distracting and stimulating moments that are great for students to concentrate and focus”.

With endless amounts of bubbles floating through a Bubble Tube every minute, they’re great at capturing the attention of any wandering eye and holding its focus, ready to concentrate and learn something new.

Sensory works, and it’s a fantastic resource for every school.

The webinar finished on a high note, celebrating the possibilities of sensory and the wonder it can bring to each and every classroom. If you’d like to be the first to hear about our next sensory webinar, sign up to join the Rhino Herd!

Watch the full webinar

Creating A Sensory Integration Room


With Sensory Integration becoming a popular topic of conversation, we thought that we’d create a handy blog post to talk you through everything you need to know about Sensory Integration: what it is, what it means, and the process of designing/creating a Sensory Integration room – working through our recent case study at More Rehab!

Continue reading “Creating A Sensory Integration Room”

Cleaning Your Sensory Room

Welcoming kids back to school after an extended break is always a little manic, and everything is more manic at the moment as we need to follow social distancing measures.

Neurodiverse children might find their change of environment stressful, and falling back into a routine that they’ve not been in for a while could prove difficult.

Your Sensory Room might be more important now than it ever has been. So, it is important that you keep it safe and clean for everyone to use, whenever they need it.

We’ve put together a handy guide to help you figure out where to start when it comes to preparing your Sensory Room for sanitary use. Continue reading “Cleaning Your Sensory Room”

Tips for children with Autism on Halloween & Bonfire Night


Halloween & Bonfire Night are exciting events for lots of children, but they can prove challenging for children with Autism. Planning and making special preparations before these spooky events can help things seem a lot less stressful, helping you enjoy your night to the fullest.

Here are some of our top sensory ideas to help you and your child enjoy this time of year.

Continue reading “Tips for children with Autism on Halloween & Bonfire Night”

Brighten up your Hospital with Sensory Equipment

Hospitals can feel bleak, clinical, and slightly overwhelming for any young patient who finds themselves in A&E or living on a ward. Luckily, you can do lots of things to make your Hospital experience warmer, friendlier, and most importantly, less scary with the introduction of sensory elements.

Sensory elements and resources can make a distinctively positive impact on your patients, staff and visitors, making your Hospital a more pleasurable place to be.

When we talk about sensory equipment, some people believe that you need a complete shining, bubbling, out of this world Multi-Sensory Room, but that’s not necessarily true. You can create a sensory environment in the corner of a room, in a waiting room, across the walls in a long corridor, or anywhere you’d like with budget-friendly portable sensory equipment, which can be used across multiple rooms and hospital departments.

Rhino Sensory UK work with hospitals across the UK to create these special sensory environments, transforming and uplifting patient experiences. Carry on reading this blog to find inspiration for your own hospital-based sensory project!

Continue reading “Brighten up your Hospital with Sensory Equipment”