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The use of Snoezelen in brain injury

Posted in Neurology News on 31st Jan 2013

Following the receipt of a donation of a significant amount of Snoezelen equipment, Mulberry House, one of the rehabilitation units owned by Titleworth Neuro, have developed a Sensory Room in order to provide sensory interventions for residents.

news-sensorySnoezelen is described as a multi-sensory intervention providing sensory stimuli to an individual’s primary senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. This is achieved using lighting effects, tactile apparatus, meditative music, and olfactory use of aromatherapy oils.

First used in the 1970’s, it was introduced as an intervention for people with learning disabilities (LD), the rationale being intervention would reduce the effects of sensory deprivation. Expression of negative emotions, self-stimulating and disruptive behaviours are associated with a reduced ability in individuals with LD to explore and interact with their environment i.e. sensory deprivation. Therefore, such an environment offering fewer demands on their intellectual abilities whilst bringing to the fore residual sensorimotor abilities, would promote positive changes in emotion and behaviour. Research has highlighted positive outcomes in LD and dementia.

There has been significant debate over the last four decades as to whether Snoezelen is considered as a multisensory environment or as a therapeutic medium. Advocates of Snoezelen postulate Snoezelen is beneficial in promoting positive behavioural changes in LD and dementia. However reviews of the outcomes obtained from people with LD and dementia suggest caution.

A literature search around Snoezelen in Brain Injury highlighted very few studies. In 2006 a small reported study looked at use with children who had sustained a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and, in 2011, a study looked at the effect of Snoezelen on spectral patterns in adults with brain injury. Yet, to date, there appears to have been no empirical studies looking at its effect on social and emotional behaviour as well as adaptive and performance skills in adults with brain injuries.

In Mulberry House excellent results have already been achieved, in particular staff and family report positive social and behavioural changes in some residents receiving this intervention. Also, spouses have found benefit in being able to be physically close to their loved ones, as they lay on the floor together in the Sensory Room during the intervention. From the qualitative reports, this closeness appears to have led to lowering of caregiver burden and strain. Such an intervention has not been reported before in the research literature. As a result we are commencing some single case design studies in the hopes we can add to the paucity of research literature of the benefit of Snoezelen in Brain Injury, both for the individual with a brain injury and also for the caregiver.