We remember only 20% of what we read, 30% of what we hear, 40% of what we see, 50% of what we say, 60% of what we do and 90% of what we see, hear, say and do! And this is where multi-sensory learning techniques help. It means just what it sounds like, it is all about using visual (sight), auditory (hearing), kinaesthetic senses (touch and balance), gustatory (taste) and olfactory (smell) to teach and help children to remember.
Controlled multisensory stimulation, or Snoezelen, is a therapeutic regime for people with severe mental disabilities. Such sensory integration therapies have been used in the therapy of patients with Autism, Asperger’s syndrome and other developmental disorders since the 1970s. They were developed in the Netherlands and are particularly popular in Germany, involving exposure to soothing and/or stimulating light, color, scents and music in carefully controlled environment, sometimes called a Snoezelen room.
These rooms are specially designed to deliver stimuli to various senses, using lighting effects, color, sounds, music, scents and so on, to address some of the issues caused by sensory problems. 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. Ideally, Snoezelen is a non-directive therapy 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.
Multisensory stimulation has been one of many approaches to learning disability for some time, especially since it was established that sensory work has an impact in the educational, as well as, the therapeutic arena. An advantage of Snoezelen 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.
There is no formal focus on therapeutic outcome. Rather, the focus is to assist users to gain the maximum pleasure from the activity in which they and the enabler are involved.
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 repetitive behavior, and seventy-five percent less aggression and self-injury in the Snoezelen environment. However there has not been sufficient rigorous research to establish multisensory stimulation as an evidence-based treatment.