What is a Sensory Room?

A sensory room can be a sensory-rich environment where your child/student can access tools and activities to help them regulate.

What Items should I put into my Sensory Room?

When creating your sensory room, think of the 7 sensory systems and choose tools/equipment that target that sense. Sensory integration research shows that sensory input can help with regulation. Linear vestibular movement (such as swinging back and forth), and proprioceptive (heavy muscle work or deep pressure) can help a child to regulate. Children can also be over or under stimulated in their sensory systems. Try and have tools/equipment available for them to fulfill their nervous system’s need for more or less input in their sensory systems with a multi-sensory approach.

Here are some great examples of items that you could add to your sensory room:

Auditory (Sound): Make sure to have items that produce different sounds such as sound puzzles, soft music, sound effect toys. You can also have a pair of sound-cancelling headphones or a white-noise machine available for kids that need to decrease the auditory input in their environment.

Visual (Sight): Have items available that provide different types of visual input. Light up toys, fiber optic lights or brightly colored toys with contrasting colors will provide a lot of visual input. You can also have a pair of sunglasses or a ball-cap to decrease the visual input in the environment. Be aware of fluorescent over-head lighting as this can be uncomfortable for some children. Try having a warm-glow lamp as an alternative option.

Olfactory (Smell): There are so many ways to incorporate smell into your sensory room! Try using a diffuser with different essential oils, or have smelly felts for fine motor play.

Gustatory (Taste): You can play with different tastes/textures with snacks and drinks. Try having a fizzy/sour drink to help ‘wake up’ the nervous system. Crunchy snacks or thicker drinks through a straw also provide proprioceptive input which can help regulate.

Interoception (Internal sensors that relate to feelings of hunger, thirst, your heart pounding etc.): Try taking deep breaths and see how this affects how fast your heart if pounding. Ask the child if they notice any body sensations they want to share. You can also have different seating options such as a cozy corner filled with pillows, a small tent, or a floor chair. We also have a custom sensory room pack with products chosen by our Occupational Therapist that will target different sensory systems.

When should I use the sensory room for my student or child?

Our nervous system is constantly working to help keep us regulated. Some children need regular ‘doses’ of sensory input to keep them calm, focused and regulated. It is important to ‘feed’ the nervous system regularly throughout the day so the child does not become dysregulated trying to gain the sensory input their body needs.

Every child is different and will need different amounts/types of sensory input to stay regulated. Children often benefit from calming sensory input to start their day, and prior to challenging activities so they are regulated and ready to face the challenge. Regular movement breaks or time in the sensory room can help a child stay calm and focused. Children often need time to decompress after a busy day (just like adults!) and scheduled time in the sensory room following a busy day at school can help smooth the transition from school to home so everyone can stay regulated.

You can also use the sensory room to help your child/student when they are upset/over-stimulated or simply dysregulated. However, try to be a ‘sensory detective’ and identify when they will need a sensory room break before they start to lose control.