What makes a great sensory room?

We are creating a sensory room in an unused classroom. Any top tips for what we should or should not include? We are a generic secondary special school.
Thanks in advance :slight_smile:

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Sensory Concepts UK LTD
Unit 1B, Storey Street
North Bridge Works
Phone 0845 6385 111
Fax 0845 6385 222

We have used this company in the past for an event. They might be able to steer you in the right direction as they hire out equipment and have some really good equipment. I know that you don’t want to hire but he could advise you.

Hi Joan,
A few quick thoughts…
First define why you want a “sensory” room. What is it’s purpose? … all rooms and activities offer sensory experiences. If you have a “sensory” room will it be based on Snoezelen or Controlled Multisensory Room practices or used as a hybrid space etc? How will “learnings” from the "sensory " room be transitioned into everyday spaces/activities?

Good design involves engaging all users in the process - participatory design.
This process takes longer but the outcome is typically a more useable space as it reflects both the needs of the user and the people who support them.
Many “sensory” rooms typically reflect what support staff/suppliers feel will be appropriate for the students and unfortunately then find the space not as useful/effective as hoped.
(Can provide further info about how to engage people with PIMD in the design process).

Many “sensory” rooms are limited in their flexibility to change with the user. Think about purchasing items that are easy to access (e.g. with switch) and offer steps for
skill /interest progression.

Many people are now using what they refer to as a “studio space” or “open-minded” space, particularly those venues that are space challenged. These spaces are a blank canvas with lots of resource cupboards. These spaces enable a range of curriculum activities (e.g. sensory-focused Drama and story telling, sensory-focused art etc) to be conducted in a less distracting/more structured environment.

Good references:
The Multisensory Handbook. A guide for children and adults with sensory learning disabilities. Paul Pagliano (2012) A David Fulton Book

Multisensory Rooms and Environments. Controlled Sensory Experiences for People with Profound and Multiple Disabilities. Susan Fowler 2008. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.


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I appreciate this is not the shopping list type of answer you are hoping for, but it is one that impacts budgets. All the research into sensory rooms finds the same thing: the difference between how effective they are as an intervention, therapy, support etc, has no relationship to the price of the stuff in the room, or even the stuff itself. The biggest factor in the success of the rooms is the people who facilitate them. Sadly it also finds that in many settings staff receive training in how to operate the rooms, i.e. Switch everything in and off, but not training on how to use the room. Many settings just assume staff will know this.

So if you can, budget some of your sensory room spend for training focused in using the room.
I am of course bias, as I provide this sort of training, but so do lots of people and the important thing is that the research is not bias,

Now I’ll be more helpful, there are some great articles in the PMLD link journal about the contents of sensory rooms on different budgets, happily back issues are available free online so I recommend having a hunt in their archive there are some gems in there.

Kind regards
Jo Grace


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Thanks that’s really helpful and training is something I definitely plan to buy in and sustain. I’ll check out the journal articles too.
Many thanks,
Viki :slightly_smiling:


Hi Mandy,
Many thanks for your advice. I like the idea of ‘Studio space’. Our room is actually quite large but therefore lends itself to having zones and being multi-functional, but I agree that it is still quite important to have a fairly blank canvas to allow freedom and creativity.
I’ll checl out the books you have recommended.
Viki :slight_smile:

Hi Viki,
The critical component of a "sensory space " or any environment is not the equipment. The equipment is really just a tool for a shared experience. Support staff need to be able to know how the person communicates and use the right strategies to ensure their message is understood by the person with PIMD. Consistency of use of communication strategies by all support staff and family will provide reliability, predictability, anticipation thus less stress and fewer behaviour support plans.
Knowing how the person communicates like/dislike means you can monitor responses and respond moment by moment to extend the persons interaction
opportunities (Intensive Interaction/Dynamic Improvisation)