School Plans To Have Special Room To Help Students With Disabilities

BY BRUCE BARTLETT – Telegraph-Journal

Hammond River Valley School is developing a Snoezelen room to help students with various learning disabilities.A recent donation of $21,300 from the New Brunswick Protestant Orphanage Home has principal Mary Breen hoping the project will soon become a reality.

The Saint John Community Foundation has donated $4,300 while the Home and School Association has also raised $1,700. The whole project will likely cost more than $30,000, when renovations are included.Staff at the school first became aware of the concept a few years ago when they visited one at Magnetic Hill School in Moncton.

“They came back and said we have to get one of those,” said Mrs. Breen.

The number of autistic children attending the school has risen over the past couple of years, so staff decided to pursue the matter.The word snoezelen blends two Dutch words that mean sniff and doze.

First developed in the Netherlands in 1975, the rooms are used to stimulate and relax people with sensory and learning disabilities through the use of pulsing lights, soothing music, appealing aromas and interesting textures.

Children with autism respond well to the snoezelen format, but it is also good for elderly people with dementia.The Hammond River Valley School near Hampton is close to a nursing home so it may be possible for elderly patients to use the room when school is out, said Mrs. Breen.

She is still getting quotes on how much it will cost to renovate a locker room space that is no longer used by students. School district officials are still looking at how much money they can put into the project.The rooms can be used to promote learning, play, or relaxation.

One part of the room is set aside for relaxation, the other for activity. A variety of lights, shapes, textures, aromas, soft music and colors are strategically placed in a room to stimulate senses.In the 25 years since they were first developed snoezelen rooms have been added to hospital burn units, special schools for children with learning disabilities, centres for children with epilepsy and homes for the elderly.

Summer camps have also discovered them as places for leisure and relaxation for campers with disabilities.

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