“Snoezelen”: (pronounced /ˈsnuzələ(n)/): “snuffelen” (to seek out, to explore) and “doezelen” (to doze, to snooze).
Snoezelen or controlled multisensory therapeutic environment (MSTE) is a therapy for people on the Autistic Spectrum or challenged by developmental delay, brain injury or anxiety. Snoezelen is found to be effective in elderly people contending with Alzheimer Disease. Originally developed in the 1970s in the Netherlands, Snoezelen rooms have been established in institutions all over the world, but not, to our knowledge, for childhood therapeutic purpose in South Africa. This intervention is not bound by a specific professional discipline, therapy, facility, or client profile. Rather, it is a philosophy and a concept to be utilized as a resource to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and other limiting conditions, such as the children enrolled at our school. MSE involves offering a person an opportunity to enter a soothing and stimulating environment called the “Snoezelen Room”. These rooms are specially designed to deliver stimuli to various senses, using lighting effects, color, sounds, music, scents, etc. Different materials on a wall may be explored using tactile senses and are combined with materials on the floor to stimulate the sense of balance and/or offer sensory feedback. An advantage of Snoezelen Therapy is that it does not rely on verbal communication. At Bellavista School, it would be the work of a trained therapist to use such a room.
Bellavista School is committed to evidence based practice. Beyond the wealth of intuitive skills presented by our therapists based on their experience, we always seek our hard data before implementing any programme.
Research on the benefits of Snoezelen treatment is scarce, with variable study designs. The research claims a 50% reduction in distress and stereotypical behaviour, and 75% less aggression and self-injury in the Snoezelen environment. However, Bellavista School had the privilege of a site visit from Dr Michelle Shapiro, the researcher behind the data confirming the effect of Snoezelen Therapy and working at Beit Issie Shapiro in Israel. Beit Issie Shapiro is Israel’s leading organization in the field of disabilities*.
[* Beit Issie Shapiro introduced the Snoezelen concept to Israel (developed in the Netherlands in the 1970s), and has helped set up some 400 Snoezelen rooms in Israel and more than 1,300 professionals have been trained, which means almost as many Israelis have access to a Snoezelen room as they do to cell phones.