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Dark Room Sensory Modulation

Motivation to be involved in one’s daily activities depends largely on the senses (Kristen Meyer). Cognitive psychologists suggest that the main ingredient of the intellectual phenomenon is sensory stimulation that allows a human being to apprehend through its senses its environment and respond towards it.

Limitations in vision, cognition and arousal are obstacles in the general development of a young child and affects their enjoyment and participation in life. The dark room provides a space and opportunities for bridging these barriers.
Sensory Dark Rooms are also sometimes referred to as UV Rooms or UV Blacklight Rooms. We use this room predominantly within the paediatric therapy programme when appropriate. This is usually for children who present with visual problems or who may have low levels of arousal. A sensory dark room provides an important sensory experience as the items in the room glow and move under UV light. It generates a relaxing and calming effect, but also activates different perception areas aimed at basal stimulation for those who are neurologically impaired.

Dark rooms can be extremely useful for undertaking visual assessments and helping occupational therapists to understand the extent of a user’s visual ability. From there they can then be used to develop visual processing, tracking skills and hand-eye co-ordination. The increased level of stimulation and response can really encourage users to learn and interact.

The sensory/dark room can offer the following:

  • Increase concentration and focus attention
  • Develop or reactivate senses of hearing, sight, smell, touch, and taste
  • Heighten awareness and improve alertness
  • Improve coordination and motor development
  • Promote cognitive development by increased brain function
  • Lead participants to explore their environment
  • Provide security
  • Be an unrestrained atmosphere where participants feel able to enjoy themselves.
  • Improve creativity
  • Stimulate the sensory building blocks
  • Develop of a sense of cause and effect
  • Develop language – more vocalization
  • Promote social interactions
  • Promote mental and physical relaxation – Stress levels drop dramatically
  • Result in more calmness and lower aggressive behaviours
  • Increase opportunity for choice and self-determination
  • Improve communication and sharing
  • Lead to non-responsive patients becoming communicative
  • Provide relief from pain and painful physiotherapy

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