This section is an overview of some of the possibilities.
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Individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities may have a dysfunctional sensory system, with one or more senses either over- or under-responsive to stimulation.
The ball cushion (left) can improve balance and posture, leading to improved concentration for children with attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities or high levels of agitation. The ball blanket (shown right) is an effective way of obtaining deep pressure and raising body awareness. It can be filled with polystyrene or plastic balls, or a mixture of the two, to provide different amounts of pressure and therefore sensory stimulation.
There is a range of other equipment available for developing sensory integration, from swings and wobble boards to rollers, rockers and trampolines.
A multi-sensory environment is intended to stimulate the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, without any intellectual activity involved. It can be used for relaxation, as an antidote to stress, for therapy and education – or just as an enjoyable and individual experience.
Environments can be enjoyed passively, as a soothing and relaxing interlude, or they can be interactive, with various different types of control, from switches to sound or movement sensors, enabling the user to cause changes in various aspects of the environment.
Snoezelen™ – a trade mark of Rompa – was the original multi-sensory environment, developed in Holland to offer a range of sensory experiences in a safe setting.
Music is a means of communication that is universal – individuals with a range of impairments from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s to autism can be reached through music where other means have failed – and everybody, no matter what their limitations, can enjoy a feeling of achievement through making music. No musical talent or knowledge is necessary, in order to benefit from music therapy.
The programmable keyboard (right) is brightly coloured and responds to a light touch; it also has switch inputs, so that it can be used by individuals with a wide range of different needs, to create and record music and other sounds.
At the low-tech end of the spectrum, drums, cymbals, tambourines and all sorts of percussion instruments can be very rewarding!
Another non-verbal therapy, art therapy encourages communication through the use of images, collage, photography, painting, sculpture and other media, enabling individuals with sensory impairments and learning disabilities to express themselves and explore their world.
Dance Movement Therapy
We all use our bodies to express what we feel – consciously or, most of the time, unconsciously. Communication experts suggest that 55% of what we communicate is through body language: dance movement therapy employs the natural human tendency to use the body to express emotions, as the basis for therapeutic movement.
Therapists work with individuals who have social, emotional, cognitive and/or physical problems, in many different settings, including the NHS, prisons, residential care homes, educational establishments and other community facilities.
Using dramatic structures, drama therapy provides an environment where individuals and groups can explore personal and inter-personal issues. Many dramatic forms are used, including mime, puppetry, story writing and telling, masks and costumes, role playing and movement.
Good acting skills are not required – the dramatherapist provides an environment of trust and confidentiality where individuals can communicate whatever their abilities or impairments.
Dramatherapy may have as its main purpose – depending on the client’s needs:
• creative expression, building self-confidence, making relationships, having fun
• learning to deal with social situations, through role-play, observation, exploring different patterns of behaviour
• exploration of feelings about oneself and other people, enabling the possibility of change through greater insight
• using dramatic forms to explore personal experiences in a metaphorical way