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16 April 2019

Why does a Sensory Room help those with Autism?

by Alexandra Hooson

Environment and Surroundings

People with Autism can often have trouble with Sensory Integration, which can be the root cause of problems in development, information processing and behaviour. They have difficulty making connections between their tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems, any of which can be overactive or not active enough as a person interacts with their environment.

If the person you care for with Autism is having trouble with sensory integration, you should focus on creating coping skills for them, so that they can navigate stimulating environments better.

Multisensory Environments provide a wide variety of controlled sensory simulators perfect for people with Autism and other special needs. They can help enhance concentration, attention and alertness in autistic people who are easily distracted.

How to create an autism friendly safe Sensory Room

Sensory Rooms are a great way to create a controlled, relaxing, calming and stimulating environment.

There are lots of different resources that would work perfectly in any sort of Sensory Room, but the list below will help you create a space specially tailored for people on the Autistic Spectrum:

Don’t worry if you don’t have the funds for a full sensory room as Sensory Den’s and Sensory Kit’s are great portable alternatives. They contain all of the sensory items that you will need in an easy to carry bag, so that you can take a sensory break whenever and wherever you might need it!

What are the best things to consider when creating a sensory area for ASD?

Colours

The general rule is that low arousal colours such as cream and pastel colours (not yellow or white) should be used on the walls and patterned wallpaper should be avoided. All soft furnishings should also be kept plain and calm. Patterned floors or carpets should be avoided as they can be confusing to walk on and may increase anxiety or cause people to become fixated.

Lighting

Fluorescent or bright lighting can be too harsh and hurt the eyes of an autistic person. Many have said that these types of lights can be seen to them as flickering and they can even hear them humming, as you can imagine this can be very distracting.

Therefore it is best to use soft, calming, dimmable lighting where possible, so it can be adjusted to personal preferences. Sensory Rooms are more effective with low, natural or ceiling lighting.

Dressing Windows

It is probably best to avoid slatted blinds, particularly vertical ones as these can be very distracting with the shadows they can cause. Curtains are the better option and blackout curtains are even better! If there is a risk of room users pulling on blinds or curtains you should consider using window film to filter or block out natural light.

Noise

Autistic people can’t always filter out noises that other people may simply be able to block out or ignore. Sensory Rooms should be quiet locations where those with autism can retreat to relax from their surroundings.

If building from scratch it is worth sound proofing the room with additional acoustic controls in the ceiling and walls. Whilst carpets, floor or wall padding and soft furnishings can also help to limit noise levels and create a cosy and safe place.

Smells

Smells in everyday life can become very over powering for a person with autism. Even typical enjoyable smells such as perfume, deodorant or fabric conditioner. Therefore a background fragrance can be put into the room to block the intrusion of uncontrollable smells. Aroma diffusers are perfect for introducing relaxing and comforting aromas to the users’ environment.

Safety

Some autistic people have very little awareness of danger, which means that you might have to take special precautions when using everyday objects within a sensory space.

Here are a few things to check:

  • Locks or high handles on cupboards
  • Electrical sockets out of reach or in a cupboard
  • Using plug locks
  • Radiator covers
  • No sharp edges
  • Light and socket switches to have covers

If you feel like you want to learn more about Autism Friendly Spaces then please get in touch with our specialist team, as we’re happy to help you through every step of your sensory journey!

Email: sales@rhinouk.com    Tel: 01270 766660