Kathy Moore, a student in Sprott Shaw Nanaimo’s Health Care Assistance program, is strapped into a lift and lowered into a play pit of plastic balls.
Moore and her classmates were at Nanaimo Association for Community Living’s building at the corner of Cavan Street Victoria Crescent Friday getting a first-hand experience with the association’s Snoezelen therapy room, which is where the lift system happens to be installed, so patients can be moved into and out of the room’s ball pit.
Snoezelen therapy uses brightly coloured lights, fibre optics, lighted bubble tubes and textures to stimulate senses. Clients can set the atmosphere they want, be it outer space, underwater or kittens and puppies, while lounging on cushions or soft furniture or “floating in the ball pit.”
Snoezelen, also known as controlled multi-sensory environment therapy, originated in the Netherlands in the 1970s and allows patients with autism, brain injury, Alzheimer’s and other conditions explore a stimulating environment outside of a structured program. They essentially get to relax and play.
“It’s different for everybody in the way its perceived or what they take out of it,” said Sue Logan, Snoezelen room attendant.
Logan said emotionally high-strung patients are often able to relax in a way they can’t elsewhere and she gets positive feedback from caregivers about their clients.
The room is available for all ages. Logan currently has clients age eight to 62 using the room.
“It’s helped their sleep patterns or it’s helped their moods,” Logan said.
Graham Morry, association executive director, said about 75 people in Nanaimo use the room regularly, including his 10-year-old daughter, Mia, who has Down’s syndrome.
“It’s certainly worked wonders with her as far as calming and her ability to focus and everything,” Morry said. “It’s been quite dramatic.”
Mia goes in the room for up to one hour at a time, interacting with the various stations.
The room adheres to the standards set by Flag House, the company which markets the therapy system and equipment in Canada, and operates as a standalone program, separate from Nanaimo Association for Community Living and is funded by user fees and by the province with money from gaming revenue.
The program is open to both the association’s clients and the public.
“It’s a really good service,” Morry said. “It’s done a lot for a lot of people and we’re really proud of it.”
To learn more about the Snoezelen Room, please visit the Nanaimo Association for Community Living’s website at www.nanaimoacl.com or call 250-741-0224.