At Creative Sensory Spaces, we have chosen at this point in time to use person-first language in all of our communication. We know person-first language continues to be an important part of many people’s identity and we support and acknowledge this choice. We also acknowledge people’s personal preferences and individual right to choose how their identity and experiences are described.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment. People on the autism spectrum may perceive sensation differently and can be more likely to experience sensory overload, which can trigger a meltdown.
Let’s take a look at sensory processing and explore how people on the autism spectrum could benefit from a calming sensory room.
Sensory processing in autism
Sensory processing refers to the way we perceive, process and organise information from our environment and our own bodies, which we receive through our senses – hearing, sight, touch, smell, taste and movement.
Atypical sensory processing is now considered a core feature of autism, experienced by 69-95% of people on the autism spectrum. That can make it difficult to function in some environments.
Atypical sensory processing may involve:
- Having an extremely negative response to some stimuli – such as becoming upset or anxious when wearing certain fabrics, exposed to clothing tags or sitting on some types of furniture.
- Being unresponsive to a stimulus that would normally trigger a response – e.g. not responding to pain messages when touching a hot stove
- Sensory seeking – a preoccupation or craving for some kinds of stimulus, such as putting fingers or non-food items in their mouth.
Because we are surrounded by sensory stimuli all day long, we’re constantly having to process that information. It’s overwhelming for neurotypical people at times but it can be especially hard for people on the autism spectrum, who often find that their sensory processing difficulties may lead to:
- Fear and avoidance
- Ritualistic behaviours
- A strong preference for the same, predictable routine
- Difficulties with self-care, behaviour and school participation.
How do we address that? How do we help to soothe the senses, relieve overload and help people on the autism spectrum to have a more positive experience? With a calming sensory room.
What is a calming sensory room?
Sensory rooms are purpose-designed spaces that stimulate and engage the senses in a positive way. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by too much sensory input, you feel soothed by just the right amount.
Our calming sensory spaces blend art and science to create an immersive experience in a refreshing, multisensory environment that gives you room to reset.
Nothing is expected from you in that space. All you have to do is be there and:
- Rest your eyes in the darkness – an instant signal that you’ve entered a different world
- Focus your attention on illuminated visual elements, light effects and slow transitions
- Slow your thoughts and heart rate in time with the slowly changing illuminations
- Listen to gentle music
- Smell the floral aromas
- Sink into comfortable seating and cushions
- Envelop yourself in a weighted blanket to stimulate your 6th sense – proprioception.
Benefits of an autism sensory room
Both neurotypical and neurodiverse people can benefit from spending time in a calming sensory room. There are particular benefits for people on the autism spectrum, though. Spending time in a sensory room can help people on the autism spectrum to:
- Relieve anxiety and feel calm
- Improve focus
- Improve self-regulation
- Enhance a sense of control and choice
- Develop communication and social skills.
A calming sensory room may also help to prevent or manage meltdowns – a common response to sensory overload. The sensory room can be used to:
- Build relaxation into the daily routine – a regular opportunity to decompress may reduce the likelihood of a meltdown occurring
- Ward off a meltdown at the ‘rumble’ stage’ – entering the sensory room before the meltdown hits may soothe people on the autism spectrum enough to avoid the meltdown
- Manage a meltdown – a sensory room is designed to soothe the senses and so can help to relieve the feelings of overwhelm that have triggered the meltdown. The deep pressure of a weighted blanket, for example, can help people to self-regulate.
How can we help?
At Creative Sensory Spaces, we design and install calming sensory rooms in a variety of different environments, such as schools, health centres, sports grounds and pop-up festivals.
These beautiful bespoke spaces have provided many people on the autism spectrum with a room to reset. If you’d like to see how we could meet your needs, book your free 15-minute dream sensory space starter session today.