Meldreth Manor II - How to use a Sensory Room
Meldreth Manor is a Scope school in Cambridgeshire for students with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD). The students are residential or attend day school and their ages range from 7 to 19 years of age. Meldreth Manor welcomes students with profound and complex needs and offers a creative approach to a multi-sensory curriculum, promoting all aspects of the child’s development: physical, social, emotional and intellectual.
Specialist teacher, Suzanne Little has worked at Meldreth Manor for over seventeen years and has developed assessment and planning in multi-sensory work for students with PMLD and multiple disabilities and visual impairment ( MDVI ). She explained the background to the multi-sensory resources available at the school: ‘the majority of our students have cortical visual impairment and need to have high quality and appropriate visual stimuli which can be adapted to suit the needs of the individual. The quality of resources we have here allows us to best meet the needs of each student.’
Originally built by SensoryPlus in 2007 the multi-sensory room at Meldreth Manor was the result of a collaborative process between the school, their students and the team from SensoryPlus. Following many meetings, the room’s final specification reflected the school’s goals and aspirations, featuring interactive bubble tubes, fibre optic curtains, switch activated LED pin spots, projectors with colour wheels and a small ultra violet light room with fluorescent materials and fibre optics to maximise the sensory opportunities the space offered.
‘We can come in here for group activities, such as, drama and we can create the setting we need in the room using the different resources,’ explained Suzanne. ‘We use the projectors and a variety of colour wheel effects which we project onto materials, curtain screens and/or white umbrellas. We can use the different resources in this room for a variety of activities and different environments to suit the needs of the group and for individual students to provide an optimal sensory experience. The resources in the room provide what we need to set up a special environment’.
Despite the wide choice of equipment, the studio-style room remains spacious and flexible, with the ability to divide and alter the size and flow of the room, controlling the ambient environmental light through colour controlled lighting. Suzanne expanded on how the room could be used: ‘some students may benefit from using a bubble tube with the switch control, others may be better looking at the projections on nets and looking at colours, so we vary what they do according to their needs. These are wonderful resources because if a student has sensory impairments then they need specialist equipment and our staff use multisensory approaches to enable students engage with communication of choices and activities.’
The new switch console from SensoryPlus controls colour and brightness by using large, colour co-ordinated buttons or by sound, from a music player or by voice through a connected microphone. The switch control has already proved invaluable to Suzanne. ‘It can be a very powerful resource because, in the first instance, it provides a motivation to use a switch, then awareness and attention is increased and there’s a realisation ‘ah yes, I’m actually doing that’ which can lead to an understanding of cause and effect in controlling the change of colour. This can then be generalised to using other switch access control which could empower students in communication of preferences and in choice making.’
‘Some students enjoy a special quiet time and love to come into this room to relax and focus their attention on just using one piece of equipment, such as; the fibre optics or colour wheel on the projector tent , ’ continued Suzanne. ‘Others just like to be quiet and look at the bubbles and listen to the very gentle sound and watch the colours change. It depends upon a person’s sensory preferences, which piece of equipment they use, but the room allows staff to provide a responsive environment to suit the needs of the individual and sensory programmes are designed to meet this need. The room can be used for calming times for those students who need quality time out for themselves; this is especially valuable for students on the autistic spectrum and for students who just want time to look,’
Finally Suzanne summed up the overall benefits of the multi-sensory room: ‘the point of these wonderful resources is that they can be used to improve the quality of life for someone with complex needs through fun and meaningful activities. The students can achieve success and pleasure and the more someone is happy, the more they can engage with the world around them.’
Click here to read more about how Meldreth Manor School worked with SensoryPlus to create their sensory room.