Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Multi-Sensory Environment or Snoezelen® Room?

It is a dedicated room that attempts to block out noise, control space, temperature, and lighting. It is an artificially created venue that brings together multi-sensory equipment in one place to stimulate the senses. This venue promotes pleasure and / or feelings of well-being and can be utilized as part of the learning or treatment experience or for leisure and relaxation. It is Controlled Sensory Input (CSI), especially designed to promote choice, interaction, and relationships through planned stimulation of the senses. It relieves stress, anxiety and pain. MSEs have been shown to help with autism, brain injury, challenging behaviors, dementia, developmental disabilities, mental illness, palliative care, pre and post surgery, PTSD, special education and of course wellness. It aims to maximize a person’s potential to focus and then to act on this change through an adaptive response to their environment. An adaptive response is defined as the individual initiating and reacting in a meaningful, productive way to situations, things and people in their environment. An adaptive response is a dynamic and ever changing process. Simply put Multi-Sensory Environments help change behavior, increase focus and attention and add to the feelings of positive self-esteem and well-being. (Written by: Linda Messbauer, MA, OTR/L)

What are the therapeutic or educational effects of a Multi-Sensory Environment?

The beneficial effects of a MSE will depend on your goals or outcomes that you and the participant want to achieve. For example: If you designed the MSE for relaxation, your goal may be to decrease stress so the individual can tolerate some inclusion into a noisy cafeteria. If the MSE is designed for use with dementia patients or aggression the goal might be to reduce agitation and provide for a calm and pleasurable visit with a relative. Then tapping into pleasant memory retrieval through producing calm in an MSE may provide for this setting and an “in the moment” sharing relationship with the relative. If the goal was to maximize a learning experience with children we know participation and fun are the hallmarks of a good education. The MSE provides for this type of opportunity and making the experience fun increases learning and memory. But, whatever your goal or objective it should be measurable and documented.

How can I introduce MSE to my child?

You should receive some training on how to integrate you and your child into a MSE. There are some protocols that will help maximize your experience and assure success. The idea here is to enjoy the experience together and have fun.

Is an MSE always a dedicated separate room?

No, An MSE may be a defined space, like a bedroom of a child with disabilities, recreation room, patient’s hospital room, surgical waiting room, nursing home activity center, a dentist’s office or treatment room, an MRI testing room. It can be anyplace that you might want to help the person control stress, anxiety or pain. In all cases, though you are attempting to control the environment for the person. You are trying to setup and control an atmosphere, that includes all levels of sensory comfort, including noise levels, temperature, and lighting and even smell to make it pleasant and calming for the individual. In general the more an individual can cope the less they need a dedicated room.

WHY control space?

So, that a person can maximize their own potential to calm themselves and use their own internal psychological resources. For example, have you ever been so nervous about something like a test, oh lets’ make that a medical test and you have no control over it and there is an unknown outcome and someone says “Oh don’t be nervous”. How does that make you feel? Did it relieve any of the stress? Of course not, but someone who came in and told you a good joke or said would you like something to calm you down was a welcomed distraction or answer to your prayers. Think about where they put TV monitors these days for distraction. Airports, banks anywhere there are crowds, waiting lines and the possibility of hostility or tempers developing. Is this a design feature or a method of crowd control? In NYC on the subway they have the underground musician’s that play live music, have you ever wondered why? Crowd pleaser in a hot sticky summer in the down under. My point here is that as our ability to cope goes down with rising stress, we need more supports to help us cope and it is a dynamic process. A simple distraction, maybe all that is needed or it may require more supports such as a quiet room to relax in and take our mind off our problem. It will depend on the state of the person and their coping powers. For individuals with disabilities, an MSE levels the playing field and gives them the coping supports they can utilize.

Can MSE cause harm to my child who is prone to seizures?

Photosensitive epilepsy is exposure to flashing lights at certain intensities or to certain visual patterns and this can trigger seizures. For example a strobe light has this frequency. The MSE does not include this kind of lighting. Also, each vendor usually has information on each specific piece of equipment and on any safety precautions. So, if a child has a diagnosis of Photosensitive epilepsy then don't use them. If in doubt, you should always consult with your doctor. Just a note, since 1992, I have never had an individual have a seizure in a MSE. There are just as many research studies that conclude things like video games cause seizures as there are studies saying there is no relationship between seizures and video games. The answer in my opinion is if they do not have photosensitive epilepsy go slowly and adjust the lights and add on a little at a time based on the individual's response.

Can MSE harm my child in any way?

No, MSE is harmless, but as with any toy, equipment or setting, responsible adult supervision should be at hand. There should always be at least one person present and trained on the rooms’ equipment and care.