Step-by-step multisensory room

Hi there, here’s the post I promised about making a proposal for a multisensory room while on placement at a neurological residential unit. I thoroughly enjoyed this project and would like to share what I learned with anyone thinking of setting up a multisensory room.


The main room in the Space centre


The Brief

The brief was to make an old bathroom in the home into a sensory room with a budget of £6,000. It needed to be appropriate to the client group and was also needed to be a space where the complimentary therapists could do their work. Sadly, our input was to be a proposal only as we were only on placement for 6 weeks so we wouldn’t see our ideas realised during this time.


Step 1. Research the evidence base.

My placement buddy and I researched the evidence base for articles on multisensory rooms and people with neurological conditions. This was to understand what the main issues would be for our client group and how sensory rooms could assist.


Step 2. Find good practice.

Our off-site OT supervisor suggested that we take a visit to a sensory room. We chose the Space centre in Preston as not only is it the largest multisensory environment for special needs in the UK, but also because it is managed by an occupational therapist, Alison Shorrock. Alison is a great advocate of multisensory rooms and advises others on how to develop their own rooms. As the Space centre is a charity, Alison asks for a donation for this service, in my view this is money well spent as her advice enabled us to avoid making expensive mistakes and helped us to focus.   Alison talked us through essential equipment for sensory rooms, trusted suppliers and gave us suggestions for equipment that would be useful for our client group. We were also given a chunky guide on how to set up and use multisensory rooms which told us everything we needed to know.  We looked around the large sensory room and  went down the large slide (at Alison’s insistence that all visitors must). I giggled like a schoolgirl. It was however the new small sensory room which I found the most useful as it fitted our brief and gave us pointers to what we could do in a limited space


the small sensory room in the Space centre, Alison on the left


Step 3. Choosing equipment

Alison’s recommendations for essential equipment in sensory rooms:

  • Solar 250 data projector
  • Bubble tube or bubble wall (the latter is less maintenance but more expensive)
  • Fibre optics ( a light source for the fibre optics must also be purchased)
  • Coloured lighting (LED lights)
  • White walls in the sensory room so the colour can be changed in the room by the lights and that images can be projected on the wall
  • Wheel rotator and pattern wheels
  • Switches so people can turn off and on equipment in the room ( there needs to be a mix of passive and active equipment in the room)
  • Music
  • In addition to this equipment, the unit already had massage chairs that we could utilise in the room.


Alison suggested that for our client group we also may want to consider a water bed. Although an expensive purchase, this is very relaxing for people who are wheelchair bound and it can reduce muscle tone. Quite a few of our residents had visual impairments, so Alison suggested UV lights. UV lights give 16 times more visual stimulation so clients with visual defects are more likely to locate, to fix and track fluorescent materials.

 We also decided to choose items that could be portable so that it could be taken into client’s rooms if they couldn’t get into the sensory room. We chose a sensory trolley from Mike Ayers design and found that a lot of the equipment we wanted was cheaper if we ordered the trolley. We opted for a pinwheel light instead of LED as this could be transported and a portable UV light. We chose a projection brolly so projections could be brought up close to the client if their visual impairment meant that they couldn’t see the projections on the wall. We also chose a small aromatherapy diffuser.  The total price was just over £4,000.


our mood board, excuse the hand!



Step 4. Consultation

Even though we liked what we had done, it was more important to consult with the residents to see if they liked our suggestions and whether they would use the room. We set up an informal consultation where residents could drop in and give us their feedback. We created a mood board (above) which featured the equipment that we were suggesting. We also showed residents a Youtube video of sensory rooms with equipment such as  water bed, fibre optics, bubble tubes, massage chairs, switches, projections on walls to bring the sensory environment to life. We wrote down residents comments and presented them in a report.

We also undertook an activity analysis of one the complimentary therapists at work so we understood what equipment and space that she needed. We also consulted with her on our suggestions for the room and took on board her suggestions and concerns.

 Step 5. Presentation

We then presented our findings to the service manager of the unit. We made a folder for reference, so that she could refer to it once we had left. The folder contained:

  • Alison’s guide to sensory rooms
  • Mood board
  • Resident consultation report
  • Approved suppliers
  • Spreadsheet of costings
  • Recommendations of equipment to be purchased
  • Floor plan of the room
  • Risk assessments
  • Our contact details (we want to come back!)

 Step 6. Next steps

My placement buddy and I had set the stage. Once the room was built, the home needed to buy inexpensive sensory equipment which could be purchased from mainstream retailers. The home could look in the sensory room catalogues we had ordered for ideas We advised to store in storage boxes in the room according to theme (e.g. tactile equipment, relaxation equipment, musical instruments, vibrating objects, UV objects).

auditory tub

auditory equipment tub

We had seen this in the Space centre and thought it was a great idea. We also recommended the home to source padded cushions and flooring depending on space requirements. Finally, on Alison’s suggestion, we recommended that after 6 months of using the room to recieve training on using sensory rooms to make the most of using the room and address any uncertainties.


Step 7. Making the sensory room an individual environment

The key word for a sensory room is choice. Alison said the essential equipment “sets the stage” for activity in the sensory room. The individual must choose the colour of the lights, the music played, and what equipment they want to interact with.

Equipment must be introduced slowly to see what the client responds positively to. One person’s heaven is another person’s hell. For example, in our consultation one resident said that if they used the sensory room, they would have the lighting orange, sit in the vibrating chair and would like to have lots of soft blankets. In contrast another resident said that they would choose purple lighting, lie on the water bed and listen to Pink Floyd. The sensory room is not a place to turn on all the equipment and leave the client. All sorts of activities can be undertaken in a sensory room such as pain management, reminiscence, physiotherapy sessions and complementary therapies it really depends on the client’s needs.


I hope this post has been helpful to anyone who is setting up a sensory room. I am grateful to Alison for her help and I am sure that the residents will find the room helpful. Please support the Space Centre and visit their website as they are a valuable resource.





2 thoughts on “Step-by-step multisensory room

  1. This was such a helpful post! I am in my last year of OT school and working on a project to propose a sensory room at a local adult day center. Thanks for all of the great information!

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