By Nicole Hegewald
Beginning this fall, a brand new therapy facility, the Snoezelen Room, will be featured at Shema Kolainu. The new environment will provide controlled multi-sensory therapy, complete with special activities, lights, scents, sounds, textures, and toys to help build environmental awareness. It also helps to improve auditory, visual and motor skills in a safe surrounding designed specifically for children with autism.
Challenges and excitement start as soon as the students step into the room. Stepping stones with varying textures and patterns litter the floor. A “busy train” activity panel which provides visual and spatial stimulation hovers over the room and reinforces gross- and fine- motor skills.
Farther into the room, an exciting game of musical hopscotch awaits, with various settings that adjust to any difficulty level. Every time the student jumps on a hopscotch square, a display panel with corresponding colors lights up and plays a sound.
Just skip past the hopscotch and there is an interactive LED spiral sensation panel. This panel provides therapeutic light sequences, it will provide visual tracking practice and strengthen cause and effect associations. The students can make changes in the pattern, color and speed of the lights. There is also a designated area where students will encounter a sound-activated strand of chasing lights which will build visual skills as well as assist with speech therapy.
If they don’t want to play with lights they can choose to interact with bubbles; lots of bubbles! Several lighted columns of tiny bubbles float up in front of the child. An interactive panel allows students to control the color, flow, and speed of the bubbles.
Next, they can float over to find a colorful, soothing experience from a full-body warming massage mat, integrated with a fiber-optic light spray. Once relaxed, students will find a large hammock-like chair, covered in soft, natural sheepskin in the corner. Safely cradled in the chair, students can relax as the chair gently swings from side to side.
Students can play or relax on the big cushy crash mat that covers the floor. From here they can experience aroma therapy and take in the magical sights from the solar projector or the laser stars projector. This is also a good spot to watch the mirror ball, as it casts beautiful colors and lights on the room.
Against the back wall, students can lay or crawl on a big plush lady bug with gentle vibrations, sit in a giant beanbag chair. From here students can also observe the bubbling LED water panel, ultraviolet light spray, and the domed mirror panel.
Students can also sit in a safe, soft foam rocker. They also have access to a vibro-music beanbag chair in the corner. This vibrates along with music, and can be used with the weighted blanket for an enveloping therapeutic experience.
Finally, as students head back towards the door, they will find two more tactile panels. One is mirrored, with sliding beads and a maze of wires, to challenge students’ visual perception, build logical thinking and improve hand-eye coordination. The other is an exploratory maze with exciting sea creatures that can be guided along the ocean floor.
All of these exciting features are part of the Snoezelen system that has been specially designed for Shema Kolainu. Additionally, its many settings can be adapted for different students or groups of students to provide the ideal therapy environment. Snoezelen rooms were developed in the 1970s in the Netherlands, and are now used worldwide to help children and adults with a variety of conditions. They have been shown to be especially useful for people with autism, as they provide a highly controlled environment which can both relax and stimulate the senses.
For more information on the Snoezelen Room at Shema Kolainu in Brooklyn, New York please visit their website at www.shemakolainu.com