8 Things to Consider When Designing a Sensory Room

Over the years, I have covered many products designed to help individuals with special needs relax and focus.  From a cozy canoe to weighted wearables, there are countless products on the market developed to help individuals with autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and more.  I have even covered different items available for a sensory room.  These items are a great place to start if you’re in the process of designing your own sensory room.  If you are designing your own sensory room, I have provided a list of things to consider to make it as beneficial as possible!

sensory room

Before diving into the guidelines of designing a sensory room, let’s first discuss what a multi-sensory room is and its benefits.  According to Experia, sensory rooms are a “specially designed environment designed to give a sensory experience for people with various abilities.”

A few of the potential benefits sensory rooms include:

  • Sensory stimulation:
    • When users engage and explore their surroundings, they are beginning to learn how to react and interact with the much larger world around them.
  • Increased learning and play:
    • Sensory stimulation engages different areas of the brain and helps children better absorb and retain information.
  • Improved balance, movement, and spatial orientation:
    • “Sensory rooms can help develop users’ visual processing abilities as well as their fine and gross motor skills, facilitating day-to-day living.”
  • Helps tackle behavioral problems:
    • Multi-sensory environments can be “highly absorbing, providing a moment of comfort and calm for overactive and distressed individuals, and helping inactive individuals to feel better engaged.  This improves focus and prevents users from getting the urge to ‘act up.'”

Okay, now that we’ve briefly discussed the room’s benefits and purpose, let’s go ahead and discuss the different guidelines for creating your own!  Please note that the following list is provided by School Specialty and Experia.

8 Things to Consider When Designing Your Own Sensory Room:

1. Location

Location! Location! Location!  When you first begin designing your own sensory room, the very first thing to keep in mind is where you’d like the sensory room to be located.  It is highly advised that the room needs to be “located away from busy thoroughfares where external noise could be an issue.”

Further, it is advised that you select a room without windows if possible.  Windows are not necessary and end up being covered with blinds or film adding to costs.  “If daylight and natural ventilation is required, consider an appropriate size window and suitable position.”

2. Size and Shape

Okay, so this one may seem like a minor detail, but it can make all the difference.  When you’re planning out your sensory room, ask yourself, “What all am I wanting to put in the room?”  Sensory environments can be as small as a walk-in closet if you’re only wanting a space with mesmerizing lights, for example.  However, if you’d like the individual to interact with multiple sensory objects, consider a much larger space.

The shape is another factor to consider.  For example, if you plan on mounting anything to the walls, you want to avoid circular rooms.

3. Ventilation, heating, and cooling

Due to the heat from electrical lighting products, it is highly advisable you include an air conditioning unit.  Further, “It will be necessary to have a thermostat specifically for this room, as it will require a different setting than surrounding rooms.  In the absence of air conditioning, a venting system that allows for an adequate flow of fresh air is highly recommended.”

Additionally, adequate heat should also be available in your room.  “A properly heated, cooled, and ventilated room helps the user and caregiver focus on the experience and task at hand, and not on the environmental concerns.”

4. Lighting

Speaking of electrical lighting, try to avoid any fluorescent lights.  Oftentimes, fluorescent lights create an undesirable noise which may often increase stress of the users in the room.

In lieu of fluorescent lights, try to use softer spotlights that are dimmable via a switch or a remote.

5. Sound insulation

Providing sound insulation in the room helps keep unwanted distractions (noise) from entering or leaving the room.  Sound insulation can be achieved in multiple ways:

  • Using different materials
  • Increasing the thickness of a wall
  • Lining walls, internally or externally, with sound dampening materials
6. Color of walls, ceiling, and floor

Wall color is a personal preference and may vary depending on the room’s overall design.  Generally speaking, many sensory rooms include projectors with various colors.  If this will be your case, then consider painting a wall off-white or ivory so the projected light is its true color.

“For dark studios where ultraviolet lighting effects are to be used, we recommend dark colors such as midnight blue or dark green.  These dark colors are better for creating a more focused area in which to use fluorescent effects.  We prefer these colors to simply black, as they provide the same effect, but can be less intimidating to those individuals who are new to a dark-room environment.”

If you aren’t designing a dark room, consider painting different walls different colors depending on that wall’s theme!  The resource also suggests using curtains to “create a room within a room.”

7. Floor coverings

There are several types of floor coverings available.  Experia states that your floor coverings should depend on what the room is being used for, who is using the room, and the overall effect you wish to use.  If individuals in wheelchairs will be using the room, consider including a durable floor covering that doesn’t stop the wheelchair from moving about.

Further, “a combination of carpets and vinyl floor coverings offer different visual and tactile effects while adding warmth and comfort to a room.”

8. Electrical

If necessary, you can use the existing electrical outlets in the room.  However, it is highly advised that you run a separate switched circuit for each product, with the outlets located near each piece of equipment, and the switches located together in an optimal place in the room.

It is advised to do the latter so that you have complete control of the equipment.  Doing so also decreases the likelihood of injury due to inquisitive hands.

(Side note: Experia offers a Wireless outlet control, which provides ON/OFF capability for up to 5 separate outlets at minimal cost.)

To view more guidelines and tips for designing your own sensory room, click here.

Now that you’ve got an idea on how to begin designing your sensory room, head on over to my other blog which discusses several options to put in your new room!