The purpose of a sensory environment is to provide stimulation, and yet be calming. It aims to provide a "failure-free" experience, allowing pleasurable stimulation without the need for verbal abilities or requiring specific outcomes. The focus is to help the user of the environment to gain maximum pleasure from the sensory activity they are involved in. The area can provide an oasis of relaxation which is vital for children’s emotional health, a place where they can rest and become interested in their environment. Some will simply lie down and enjoy the magic while for others they will engage in the more interactive areas.
Providing a stimulating environment can:
Increase concentration and focus attention
Develop or reactivate senses of hearing, sight, smell, touch, and taste
Heighten awareness and improve alertness
Improve coordination and motor development
Promote cognitive development by increased brain function
Lead participants to explore their environment
Be an unrestrained atmosphere where participants feel able to enjoy themselves.
Stimulate the sensory building blocks
Develop of a sense of cause and effect
Develop language – more vocalization
Promote social interactions
Promote mental and physical relaxation– Stress levels drop dramatically
Result in more calmness and lower aggressive behaviours
Increase opportunity for choice and self-determination
Improve communication and sharing
Lead to non-responsive patients becoming communicative
Provide relief from pain and painful physiotherapy
A key challenge for schools with pupils who have profound disabilities is to educate and develop the pupil using equipment that is available to them. A profoundly disabled pupil learns in a completely different way to a pupil with mild disabilities or no disabilities. Proprioceptive senses process information from our muscles, joints, and other body parts to provide us with an unconscious awareness of the position of our body parts in relation to each other, other people and objects. The Vestibular sense puts balance into our lives. It provides information about movement, gravity, and changing head positions. It tells whether we’re moving or we’re still, as well as the direction and speed of our movement. We can even tell if we are vertical or horizontal—even with our eyes closed. Combining the development of both Proprioceptive and Vestibular senses, Sensory Integration activities can assist in developing the ability to process this information and help to treat dyspraxia, vestibular disorders and balancing problems.
The approach to using the Sensory Room is generally non-directive, without the need for intellectual or verbally mediated activity in terms of following instructions or rules, and regular exposure seems to be more effective. Essentially, one would allow the user of the space the time and opportunity to experience at their own pace what the room has to offer.
One may not use or activate immediately all equipment that the room has available, but gradually introduce more of the sensory stimulation, allowing the cues given by the student to guide the teacher. The time in the Sensory Room should be student-focused, with the wishes of that individual determining the activity.