The Role of Multi-Sensory Environments for Emotional Regulation
Every moment of every day we process sensation from our environment. For any brain, and certainly for an individual coping with emotional challenges, this process can range from easy to extremely difficult.
Multi-Sensory Environments (MSE) are designed to assist this process, and CHC recently installed one at Esther B. Clark School (EBC). This unique space provides students the opportunity to learn to process sensory input in order to form meaningful responses, and adapt to sensations in the outside world.
Through use of specific equipment, an individual using the MSE room is able to control the lights, sounds, and movement throughout their experience. This provides an opportunity to reset, self-regulate, and reengage in a prior task with resilience. Benefits include improvements to alertness, attention span, sensory and motor development, social communication skills, memory and creativity.
Since opening the MSE room in Palo Alto, CHC has used it as a safe, calm space for EBC students, clients in the Intensive Outpatient Program and occupational therapy clients. One of CHC’s occupational therapists, Pamela Olson, shares a recent experience with the MSE room:
“Walking through the hallway at EBC I noticed a student crying outside of the classroom. When I asked if they wanted to talk about why they were upset, I received an immediate response of, “No.” I suggested we go to the MSE room, and they immediately said, “Yes!” I turned on the rotating colors and allowed the student to choose which equipment they wanted to interact with. The student proceeded to climb into the lycra swing, with their head upside down out of the swing, looking at the water tube, fiber optic lights, and changing projection. Within three minutes, they were ready to talk about what was upsetting them, taking perspective of the situation, and returning to class with a solution.”
This is just one of the many examples of how CHC uses the MSE room to support kids every day—and CHC would like the opportunity to install a similar space at the EBC South Bay campus so that all can benefit from this wonderful resource.
Pamela Olson, MOT, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist, CHC