Programs & Services/Snoezelen Room


Snoezelen Room


In the 1970’s two Dutch therapists experimented using a sensory tent. Their goal was to increase the sensory experience for people with intellectual disabilities. The result just after one weekend was overwhelmingly positive. Shortly thereafter the term Snoezelen was established. The term snoezelen itself is a contraction of the Dutch verbs “snuffelen” (to seek and explore) and “doezelen” (to relax). So basically “sniff” and “doze.” The first snoezelen room was opened in the US in 1992 and continues to grow year after ear and can now be found in over 40 countries around the world.


Snoezelen aids in the learning, development, relaxation, stimulation and alertness levels of anyone who has a processing disorder. It is a multi-sensory environment offering a relaxed atmosphere with soothing sounds, tactile experiences, gentle movement, light effects, comfortable seating and opportunities for interaction and engagement. It is helping improve the quality of life for thousands worldwide.

What is Snoezelen?

So from the moment we wake up our environment surrounds us with sensory information; audible, visual, tactile, olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), vestibular and proprioceptive. All this information is fed through our peripheral nervous system, to our central nervous system and then we organize a response to the input that was received. The snoezelen room is used as a method of stimulating the primary senses. It is a dimly lit room with relaxing music and various types of stimuli.


The world is full of sensory stimuli. Some individuals are not able to organize and respond appropriately to this stimuli, others have lost skills due to accident or illness, and some others lack the ability or freedom to make choices to balance their sensory lives. For these individuals the world may be a confusing and frightening place, full of over- or under-stimulation. They may behave inappropriately and act or respond in ways others do not understand.

The Five Senses

The five senses with which we are most familiar are:

Vision (Visual) — Provides us with details about what we see and helps us to define boundaries as our brain processes color, contrast, shape, and movement.

Touch (Tactile) —Keeps us in contact with our surroundings. Touch is vital to our survival and is one of our modes of communication. From head to toe, our skin helps us feel temperature, light touch, deep pressure, vibration, pain, and so much more.

Smell (Olfactory) —We use the sense of smell all the time. Flowery, pungent, musty, acrid, and putrid—we identify many things by their smells. Strong memories can also be tied to smells.

Hearing (Auditory) —Provides us with details about the sounds we hear such as volume, pitch, rhythm, tone, and sequence.

Taste (Gustatory) —Gives us feedback on the different types of tastes: sweet or sour, spicy, salty, bitter, etc.

Two senses with which we may not be as familiar are:

Vestibular —This sense puts balance into our lives. It provides information about movement, gravity, and changing head positions. It tells whether we’re moving or still, as well as the direction and speed of our movement. We may even tell whether we are vertically or horizontally positioned—even with our eyes closed.

Proprioception —This sense processes information from our muscles, joints, and other body parts to provide us with an unconscious awareness of the position of our body parts in relation to each other—and their relation to other people and objects.

A Snoezelen® Multi-Sensory Environment may be used to educate, stimulate, relax, calm, or energize, as a multi-sensory experience or single sensory focus, simply by adapting the lighting, atmosphere, sounds, and textures to the needs of the client at the time of use. These environments transcend populations with its extraordinary flexibility, wide application, and positive outcomes. Moreover, a Snoezelen MSE offers a highly motivating environment for users to enjoy sensory activities that are meaningful and appropriate, facilitated and shared by a therapist, teacher, or caregiver.

So overall Snoezelen aims to improve quality of life by using senses as a means of communication, with individuals who are cognitively impaired and who are unable to express their needs and/or feelings. It also provides stimulation for students who would otherwise be unreceptive to standard educational strategies. Students also present with increased attention to task, increased ability to focus, decreased muscle tone for those with increased tone, decreased heart rate for those with high levels of stress and anxiety.