What is a sensory room?
A sensory room, also often called a sensory explorer room, is a room dedicated to providing a range of stimuli and other sensory experiences to individuals in order to help them feel calm and focused, also to help them develop and engage with their senses whilst feeling safe and supported. These sensory rooms are often found in the buildings of therapists, hospitals and other clinical settings, they can also be situated within the grounds or buildings of schools, or even nursing and residential homes.
What is a garden sensory explorer room?
A garden sensory explorer room, or garden sensory room, is exactly the same type of room as described above, but it is also to be found situated within the garden or grounds of a privately owned property, for the exclusive use of the property owners, their family and their friends. This article will cover garden sensory/garden sensory explorer rooms that have been designed and constructed for the private use of the property owner, we will include positioning within the garden and the type of suitable sensory equipment required.
Who would use a sensory room?
Sensory rooms are designed to offer stimulation to help individuals develop, a calm and soothing atmosphere to those who may need to de-stress and a variety of other types of sensory environments to suit a range of needs. Those who would benefit from using a sensory room include people with special educational needs, learning difficulties, autism, physical, emotional and behavioural difficulties, dementia, those with visual or hearing impairment, very young children, etc. A sensory room would be beneficial for anyone who finds that they need either a stimulating environment or a calming, safe haven.
What are the benefits of a garden sensory explorer room?
The benefits of having your own garden sensory room are great. Firstly, you will not need to make an appointment to visit, this is very important as your garden sensory room can be used whenever it is needed, even if it is in the middle of the night, this alone will help to relieve a stressful situation. You will not need to drive anywhere, sensory rooms are often thin on the ground and you may be required to drive many miles to visit one, nor will you need to pay for parking when you get there, another bonus! You can decide upon the stimuli and equipment that you wish to include in your garden sensory room, you will not need to have a complete range, only what is required for the member, or members, of family who will be using it.
Garden sensory explorer benefits
- The garden sensory explorer room for children should always be fun, with educational development a close second. Sensory stimulation will encourage the child to explore the sensory room, helping them to absorb information and understand the world beyond.
- The garden sensory room is the perfect environment to improve motor skills, balance and movement, which is highly beneficial for those with physical difficulties.
- Your garden sensory explorer room will help those who have difficulties with communication, by choosing audio sensory equipment you will help with vocalisation.
- Garden sensory rooms provide an environment that is both comforting and calm, this is perfect for those who are distressed or withdrawn and will allow them to feel safe enough to connect with others.
- Garden sensory explorer rooms can be designed to help those individuals who experience difficulties with focussing. This is common for people with the condition known as ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and sensory equipment will help to enhance focus and concentration.
Garden sensory explorer room equipment
A multi-sensory environment should include a whole range of stimuli to help individuals engage with both their surroundings and their senses in order to learn and interact with others. As your garden sensory room will be private and only for the use of your family you will be able to choose equipment that is suited only to the needs of your family member or members. However, you will still need to research and plan every inch of space, carefully considering every piece of equipment. Here are just a few examples of sensory room equipment:
- The bubble tube – Most people have either seen or heard of a bubble tube, it is a brightly lit glass tube that has bubbles floating within, the light can be dimmed to create a calming and relaxing atmosphere. Bubble walls are also available.
- The Mirror wall – A great visual activity where images or writing can be applied using a form of wipe clean medium.
- The Lego wall – Not so common but nevertheless a great sensory activity, the Lego bases are attached to the wall, allowing the user to add Lego bricks to the wall instead of the floor.
- The Interactive Infinity Panel – These wall mounted, colourful panels of LED lights behind glass or Perspex give a wonderful effect that will encourage visual stimulation and interactive play.
- Lights, colour and sound are all important sensory stimuli equipment of a garden sensory room, all should be adjustable to suit the user.
- Soft play and textiles will offer a comforting ambience to the garden sensory explorer room, this is important for calming distressed users.
Where should I build my garden sensory room?
If you are thinking about installing a garden sensory room within the grounds of your own property then you will first need to consider the size of garden room you require and where it should be positioned. The size and style of the garden sensory room will depend upon your needs regarding sensory equipment and your personal preference, however, it is always better to have too much space than too little, so make sure you do your research before committing to any style, design or size of garden sensory room. As with any other types of garden room you will need to think about services, such as an electricity and mains water supply, as the closer your new construction is to the main house, the less expensive it will be to connect to these services. Underground springs and mature trees will also be a factor in the positioning of your sensory garden room. It is recommended that you avoid building near a busy main road, as the noise from passing traffic will almost certainly have a detrimental effect upon what is supposed to be a relaxing and calming environment within the garden sensory room, if you have no other option in this matter then the only way to prevent disruption from noise would be to have expensive triple glazing and the best quality of insulation that money can buy.
Will I need planning permission for a garden sensory room?
As with many other types of outbuildings, a garden room will generally fall within the rules of permitted development, the most important of these rules being:
- The garden room should be no taller than 2.5m if within 2m of the boundary
- No more than 50% of your garden area should be taken up by the garden room or any other buildings
- The garden room is not to be used to live or sleep in
There are other rules and limitations to consider and we highly recommend that you seek advice from your local planning authority before you begin, as many areas of the UK differ from each other where planning permission is concerned. The government has published technical guidance for householders, for further details and advice regarding planning permission please click here.
Your garden sensory room, or garden sensory explorer room, should be both therapeutic and educational for your family member or members. It will aid their development and help them to interact with their surroundings and other family members. It will also provide a quiet and safe place for the whole family to enjoy.
Special thanks mrnick99 for providing the image