What is a Multi-Sensory Room?

Multi-sensory rooms are areas that are set up to help students to stay calm and/or refocus during the school day. Occupational therapists or special education teachers may take a child into one of these rooms to calm them before something that typically stresses them, or to deescalate them when upset. The goal for multi-sensory room is to allow a child to have a pleasurable experience through special items that relate to textures, lights, sounds, and smells.

Many sensory rooms contain items like bubble tubes, fiber optic lighting, image projectors, canopies, swings, bean bags, and more to help combat anxiety and escape from classroom stimuli overload. Filling the rooms with activities related to the senses provide a soothing atmosphere where many children are able to regroup to go back to their regular school day. A 10-minute visit to a multi-sensory room can often help with a child’s sensory issues and allow them to return to their classrooms without further incident.

Costs and Ways to Fund

While many elementary schools would benefit from a multi-sensory room, the cost is often problematic. The average room will cost $25,000 to complete, thanks to the specialized equipment needed. Many of the swings for vestibular input cost several hundred dollars, and bubble columns, which are a common feature, cost well over $1,000.

With budget cuts, many schools are looking for ways to fund these beneficial rooms. The Green Tree School in Philadelphia, which works with children that are 5 to 21 years old with autism and other challenges, opened a multi-sensory room for part of their sensory-based therapy program. Their room and supplies were purchased with a $25,000 grant from their regional Ronald McDonald House Charities. The mission of the school and Ronald McDonald House Charities aligned well and because it worked toward benefiting the health and well-being of children they were eligible for a grant.

Therapists and special education providers within schools need to be creative when trying to set up a multi-sensory room. The large cost may be offset with grants or other fund raising within your community. Share the benefits of the program for the students in your building and explain how it will ease their stresses by creating a safe place for them to decompress within your school.