When moving into our new premises there was a lot of work to be done to transform the former Brunshaw Young Persons’ Centre into a space that perfectly meets the varied needs of our many service users.

One of the things we are most proud of is our fantastic multi-sensory room, which has been designed to suit a host of differing needs and can be explored in a multitude of ways, to suit everyone.

The space can be used interactively or passively, depending on the person, and there are a multitude of different facilities.

First and foremost – IT. IS. FUN!

What can the Sensory Room be used for?

We’re happy to hire out this room for birthday parties and celebrations of all kinds so that we can share the fantastic facilities with anyone that would like to explore and enjoy the slide, ball pool, light tunnel and more.

However, this immersive environment is much, much more than a simple soft play space.

Why use a Multi-sensory Room?

The benefits of multi-sensory rooms are becoming increasingly well documented. These specialist safe areas are fun, calming and incredibly valuable in helping individuals learn to interact more confidently and capably in what can sometimes seem like an overwhelming world.

Susan Little told SEN Magazine that “Multi-sensory environments provide invaluable opportunities for personal development and empowerment […] In the context of special education, multi-sensory environments can, in addition to engendering a pleasant form of relaxation which promotes well-being, be used to develop the ability to focus and develop new skills”.

According to The Disabled Living Foundation (DLF): “People living with dementia can benefit greatly from exposure to soothing and gently stimulating sensory environments – this can include items such as coloured lights, soothing music, calming aromas and interesting textures to appeal to the senses.

“Sensory rooms were developed for this purpose in the 1970s. Research conducted by Dr Collier at the University of Southampton found that if a sensory environment was adapted to an individual’s needs with dementia, improvement in performance, mood and behaviour could be achieved (Collier, L, and Jakob, A. 2016).”

And it’s not just dementia; for service users with autism, physical disabilities, learning disabilities or behavioural difficulties, our multi-sensory room facilitates learning and encourages users to engage with their senses in a calming environment without pressure or distraction.

The Sensory Room Equipment

The Charter House multi-sensory room is equipped with a ‘H’ track hoist, enabling access to more areas of the space including the ball pool and water bed. The room also has a cause and effect lighting area, bubble tube, infinity light tunnel, LED touch panel, ball pool with under lighting and slide, a ‘den’, audio sensory vibration bed, chair swing, wall projector, fibre optic ceiling panels, optical effect roof panels and state-of-the-art AV system. You can read more about these features and take a look at some of our pictures here.

What benefits can I expect from using a Sensory Room?

We’ve already had some positive feedback saying the room helps the people we support to “relax or be stimulated” and the music system in particular is “really easy to use.”

Sensory rooms are thought to help improve everything from balance, movement and spatial orientation, to relaxation, visual processing skills and better understanding of concepts like ‘cause and effect’.

Importantly, sensory rooms promote emotional wellbeing where service users can explore different stimuli in an environment free of the pressures of the outside world.

How do I know if a Sensory Room will suit my needs?

As explained on www.sensoryrooms.org, multi sensory rooms are extremely versatile and can offer a different experience to different people. “By tailoring the sensory environment to the individual rather than forcing them to adapt to their surroundings, you can encourage exploration and engagement within a therapeutic setting without making the service user feel overwhelmed. This helps develop a sense of empowerment and increases confidence, resilience and independence … The sensory approach can encourage better communication between the service user and their therapist or teacher.”

The well equipped sensory room at Charter House enables users to ‘pick and mix’ the facilities; focusing on the aspects that would most benefit each individual. Some people may need a calming and relaxing atmosphere to wind down and focus, while someone else might benefit more from exciting and physical play in this specially designed safe space. There are so many ‘tools’ to choose from, that care teams can use the room in a completely new way each time they visit. Our LCD Touch screen (for example) has ten different programmes to choose from.

What makes Charter House sensory room different?

Here at Charter House, carers have said there’s a “friendly and relaxed atmosphere, where everyone is made to feel welcome” and “staff are brilliant and work so well with the service users”.

Using a sensory room can provide carers and service users with a unique environment to share and explore together, which can elicit different reactions than other activities. It may even prompt an improvement in communication and could potentially help continue to improve sensory processing over time. Sensory rooms have even been associated with a reduced reliance on medication, especially in dementia sufferers with high levels of anxiety and agitation.

Charter House had a much-loved (and well used) sensory room in the last building, so the team have seen time and time again the enjoyment these multi sensory environments can bring.

We are thrilled that the new premises allowed us to invest in a host of cutting edge technologies and create a sensory room that is not only twice the size of our previous one, but is also better equipped and more adaptable to a host of varying needs.

Derek regularly used the sensory room in the old building and enjoyed all the facilities, but thinks the new room has significantly improved on what went before, thanks to the addition of the ball pit, hammock and multicoloured strip lighting. We’ve also been told that the new parking and toilet facilities are much better.

Hear from the experts that helped to build it

When it came to building the new sensory room in what had previously been a large, open sports hall, Avon Electrical was one of the generous companies to offer expert guidance. Gareth Read, MD of Burnley-based Avon Electrical, offered a wealth of advice and assistance with the specialist electric work required for the sensory room in particular. Here, he explains how Avon came to work with Charter House:

“One of our suppliers mentioned the Charter House renovation project to us, and we were keen to help. Everybody at Avon Electrical understands what it is to be a good corporate citizen and give back to the community where we can.

“We know the new centre and in particular, the multi-sensory room will act as an important place for people in Burnley, especially those who suffer from sensory depriving conditions, who will gain a great deal from the relaxing environment offered by the room.

“Avon provided free consultancy on all the electrical work to make sure that the renovation of the Centre would be up to spec. There was a lot of work to be done, and it was incredibly important that it was all safe and certified.

“The new sensory room was an interesting project due to its unusual requirements, such as mood and depth lighting. Our award-winning apprentice Zack Duxbury headed up the work in here, installing the specialist lighting and sound system among numerous other things, at a significant cost saving.

“The result is fantastic, and the Centre looks completely different from when the Charter House team first got the keys – everyone has worked incredibly hard and it shows.

“All the work we did at the Centre was either free or heavily subsidised because we appreciate the value of such a facility for the people of Burnley and the surrounding area.”