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Snoezelen (pronounced /ˈsnuzələ(n)/) or controlled multisensory environment (MSE) is a therapy for people with autism or developmental disabilities. It consists of placing the person in 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. The combination of different materials on a wall may be explored using tactile senses, and the floor may be adjusted to stimulate the sense of balance.
The term "Snoezelen" is a neologism formed from a blend of the Dutch "snuffelen" (to seek out, to explore) and "doezelen" (to doze, to snooze). "Snoezelen" is a registered trademark of the English company Rompa.
Ideally, Snoezelen therapy is a non-directive therapy: where the client, not the therapist, controls it; and can be staged to provide a multi-sensory experience or single sensory focus, simply by adapting the lighting, atmosphere, sounds, and textures to the specific needs of the client at the time of use. There is no formal focus on therapeutic outcome - the focus is to assist users to gain the maximum pleasure from the activity in which they and the enabler are involved. An advantage of Snoezelen therapy is that it does not rely on verbal communication and may be beneficial for people with profound autism, as it may provide stimulation for those who would otherwise be almost impossible to reach.
Snoezelen therapy is used for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, dementia, brain injury and even toddlers. However, research on the benefits of treatment is scarce, based on variable clinical study designs.
A small research study carried out in Brussels compared the behavior of nine adult clients with profound autism in both classroom and Snoezelen settings. Though individual results varied, the study claimed a 50% reduction in distress and stereotypical behavior, and seventy-five percent less aggression and self-injury in the Snoezelen environment.
Snoezelen therapy relates to the interdependence of both the space (the physical environment) and the "client-centered" approach of the practitioner (the human environment). This specially designed sensory physical environment together with the input of the "enabling practitioner" initiates changes in arousal by affecting the relaxation process, reducing anxiety/pain (both physical and emotional). It aims to maximize a persons potential to focus on his own free will and to engage on a motivational stimulus (object,activity or person), and thereby to improve communication and functioning.
The defining principles of the MSE help the practitioner to focus attention on the basic elements of this approach. The following are the principles.
- The experience takes place in a specific physical environment.
- The attitude of the practitioners is "client centered".
- Stimuli must be controlled according to the client's needs.
- The MSE is a medium for communication.
- The sensory environment is neither positive nor negative.
- The practitioner relies on the client's point of view. (Shapiro, 2010).
- Chung JCC, Lai CKY. Snoezelen for dementia. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003152. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003152.
- Lancioni GE, Cuvo AJ, O'Reilly MF. Snoezelen: an overview of research with people with developmental disabilities and dementia. Disabil Rehabil. 2002; 24: 175-84. PMID 11926258
- Autism, Help. "MULTI-SENSORY STIMULATION (SNOEZELEN)". Autism Help Organisation. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
- Shapiro et al., 1997; 2009a; 2009b; Fornes, Messbauer, Pagliano & Verheul, 2009
- International Snoezelen Association, with definition of snoezelen, bibliography, meetings etc.
- Report on the use of a snoezelen room at Jackson Memorial Hospital, fall 2004
- Photo and video galleries of various snoezelen rooms
- Italian section of the Snoezelen Foundation presentation of various snoezelen rooms and home care applications through telematics links
- Snoezelen in Israel
- Snoezelen for people with Alzheimer's and dementia