Friday, December 21, 2012

Sensory Spaces on the Cheap

A commenter let me know that my 2007 and 2008 Sensory Room on the Cheap posts were out of date, so I thought I would give it another go.

Before you go crazy buying or making things for a sensory space please consider carefully things like how much space you have, how sturdy/unbreakable things need to be for your students and what will the purpose of your sensory space be?  If your students need help being alert and interactive a soothing white room with soft glowing lights may not be the best idea and a room with expensive lights and decor may not be a great idea for a student who needs to "get his wiggles out".  Think about your purpose before you purchase!  Consider a theme to unify the room or space so it doesn't look thrown together - "The Ocean", "Beach" and "Space" might all work well!

 I should also mention that the American Academy of Pediatrics and others have warned that Sensory Integration Therapy does not (yet) have a research base behind it.  Multisensory Enviroments (aka Snozelen Spaces) also do not have a preponderance of evidence behind them (this is because most of the research is done by those who create and sell the systems).  That being said creating an engaging, soothing or otherwise specialized space for your students at school or your child at home can be rewarding.  It is up to the teacher (or parent or therapist) to collect baseline and intervention related data to determine if the space is helpful.

Ideas for a Your Purpose

Soothing Space

  • soft, body conforming seating
  • white or pastel walls, seating and decor
  • soft music
  • gentle, glowing lights
  • swings
  • rocking chairs
  • calming scents
 tulle with white string lights down the middle
Heavy Work and Vestibular Stimulation
  • ball/crash pits
  • lycra heavy work tubes
  • mini-trampolines and other bouncing toys
  • spinning toys
  • adjustable lighting
  • diffented music
For Increasing Use of Functional Vision
  • dark walls
  • black lights
  • bright glowing lights
  • things which move for using visual tracking
  • projectors
For Increasing Alertness/Movement
  • bright colors
  • things which move and draw attention
  • moving seating
  • switch activated/interactive toys
  • alerting music
  • stimulating scents

Products Under $150


Equipment and Seating

DIY - Do It Yourself Ideas

How Others Have Made Sensory Spaces

Inexpensive Companies Worth a Try


  1. Oh what a timely post for me!!! We have three kids with Down syndrome, with a fourth on the way this spring. Three of the kids are post institutional with a LOT of sensory needs! We have an 1100 sq ft basement we are converting to a sensory area. I want to have "zones", and am trying to figure out how to do it. We have lots of big stuff on order (ball pits, etc) but can't put anything up until the flooring is done. We're so excited to get this space put together. Would love to hear any other input you might have deanleah at

  2. A great article indeed with some neat information for learners with multiple disabilities. These methods are surely some great steps forward to make children's life easy.

    Children with autism spectrum disorder have also the options to learn and develop if they are early diagnosed.

    Autism Spectrum Disorder is now recognised as a relatively common neuro-developmental disorder. It is commonly diagnosed in a child’s early years, although its cause is yet to be determined, but it is for sure that autism does affect the learning and communication capabilities of your children in negative ways.

    The level at which this brain-based condition may affect a child varies; hence why it is called a “spectrum disorder”. While some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may function well with very minor limitations in day to day life, other children experience severe limitations in most areas of daily living. For more information on early detection of autism, please consult your physicians.

  3. Great post on sensory needs. I use a lot of these strategies with my kiddos as well.

    I am your newest follower :)

    Mindful Rambles


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