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Sensory Rooms A Guest Blog by Sarah Hall, Willows Sensory Service

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

I have just done a session and the most engaging resource used was a light up watch that cost £2.00. So, my first point is that sensory resources do not have to be expensive. In fact, picture a sensory walk along a beach; waves, sand, gulls, fish and chips.

However, if you are creating a sensory environment I recommend getting advice as some items are much better quality and safer from a specialist provider.

Before you buy anything I would recommend getting some sensory room training*.

Question which equipment, why you want sensory equipment, how to operate it, and how you are going to use it. This will help you refine what you need. Your resources will be defined by your user or users. What do they like or what do you want them to get out of a sensory room.

Jo Grace points out that when companies sell a sensory room, everything is switched on in the marketing picture. This is so we can see it all as an all singing all dancing experience.

In real life, you need to rotate the special effects.

Consider a bubble tube, it is making a sound, vibrating, is smooth, cold, visually stimulating with bubbles, colour and movement. This is a lot of sensory information to take in and digest. Imagine this times 6 with lots of pieces of equipment on. Unfortunately, what happens here is we switch off and look relaxed.

You can experience the autism bus and the Alzheimer’s bus for an experience of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Literally! The one I did I had bumpy inserts in my shoes. It was noisy, sirens, lights flashing and an unclear task. I opted out and just sat quietly, feeling confused and bemused. I looked relaxed! So, it is vital we have just one thing on at a time.

Jo Grace’s research for her book “Multiple multi-sensory rooms: myth busting the magic” highlighted an appreciation of darkness, of being able to have a dark space. This makes light up resources or UV resources stand out visually and can be quite dramatic and magical. So this is where I would start even a dark cloth over a table or a tanning/toilet tent.

I mentioned a beach walk earlier but it may be we can’t get to the beach so a sensory room allows us to simulate a beach and bring the sensory elements of a beach to us.

So, if I was doing a seaside drama as well as sand, water, shells and beach sounds I may include a reflexology treatment using sun tan lotion which is an evocative smell.

Sensory rooms lend themselves to relaxation but can be so much more. With a bit of imagination and creativity the possibilities are endless.

I change my theme periodically, at the moment it is still hearts because we need lots of repetition in our world.

You can create a sensory space in the home, here are my five favourite items to add:

  • Bubbles

  • Juggling Scarves

  • UV Torch

  • Balloons

  • Space Blanket

My sensory room is available to hire and people choose what to do in there from pampering, music, dancing to just having quality time, time to just relax with each other.

On Pete Wells Sensory Stories podcast he asks experienced educators from the field of Special Education for their favourite thing in a sensory room. They all agree its the people; the staff, carer or family member in there either makes it or breaks it. Someone who can tune in and engage will bring magic to the sensory room

Author Bio

I worked as a special education teacher for 12 years and set up Willows Sensory service working from home when I had my son, who has just turned 18.

Since setting up I have also qualified as a complimentary therapist.

Willows is a truly unique service , a mixture of sensory education and complimentary therapies planned for individuals.

There is a sensory room available for hire.

* I run a Sensory Ideas course I can adapt to Zoom if you are interested.

** Sessions are bespoke, planned for individuals. People can book complimentary therapy treatments in their own right too. I can do Indian head massage over Zoom, instructing someone what to do, for example, on their child using my girl’s world to demonstrate on.


Sarah Hall

Instagram Willowssensory

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