The Benefits of Multi-Sensory Environments.

Children with autism 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 child interacts with his or her environment.  Their brains react differently than expected when given sensory input, either failing to integrate or organize new information appropriately.

If your child is having trouble with sensory integration, you should focus on creating coping skills to deal with stimulating environments rather than trying to change processing.  Multi-sensory environments provide a variety of sensory stimulation for people with autism and other special needs.  They were first introduced in the 1970s by psychologists Ad Verheul and Jan Hulsegge as a form of therapy designed to help people with intellectual and physical disabilities to stimulate the senses in a safe, controlled environment.  By controlling sound, lighting, touch, and temperature, you can help your autistic child to better cope with the world around them.

Improve focus

Multi-sensory environments can help to enhance concentration, attention, and alertness in autistic children who are typically distracted. Optical, acoustic, olfactory and tactile stimuli help hyperactive individuals learn how to direct their focus, and how to deal with real-life encounters in a healthy way. You can help your child to heighten their awareness of their surroundings, which can improve behavior both at school and at home.

Develop or reactivate senses

In a multi-sensory room, intriguing toys, activities, and equipment gently encourage your child to explore their environment without feeling frightened or overwhelmed.  The whole purpose of an artificial multi-sensory environment is to stimulate the basic building blocks needed to process hearing, sight, smell, touch, and taste.  Exposing autistic children to exciting stimuli in a safe environment activates different perception while relaxing and calming hyperactive individuals.

Encourage Socialization

Autistic children don’t always get as many opportunities to interact and play with others as their peers do, which can lead to isolation and depression. Multi-sensory environments give your kids a safe and supervised space where they can interact and communicate with other children and learn the social skills they’ll need as they grow, all without feeling stressed out or aggressive. Even non-responsive children may be encouraged to come out of their shell when introduced to a multi-sensory room.

Promote cognitive development

Multi-sensory environments help to improve not only social skills but also the development of thought.  They promote increased brain function and encourage creative thinking that can help your children to improve their performance in school.  Autistic children also have a chance to develop a sense of cause and effect in a safe and supportive environment.

Improve motor development

Not only do multi-sensory environments promote cognitive development, but they can also help children to improve their physical skills. Available activities are designed to help children coordinate their actions and tune their fine-motor skills.  Children can also learn how to better understand and integrate information regarding touch, balance, and body awareness.

To learn more about Jackie’s research on sensory environments, click here

Author: Jackie Edwards

After taking a career sabbatical to become a mother, Jackie now writes full time on topics ranging from health and wellness, right through to news and current affairs. She has, in the past battled problems with anxiety and panic, and in her spare time she volunteers for a number of local charities that support people with mental health issues. Both her children are on the autistic spectrum and Jackie also presents with signs of ASD too.