Students at college or university may face different kinds of sensory issues.

Did you know that students with autism may find it difficult to find a quiet, unbusy, and not-too-bright environment to study at college or university?  The experience of students with autism are shared by many other students too, like students with PTSD, concussion, anxiety or hearing loss. Stress and burnout are experienced by many university students worried about exams, papers, projects and their future.  And a university environment that is too noisy, too busy or too bright can create additional stress.

Many universities across the world have taken steps to address this issue.   Here we share details from universities or colleges who have created sensory friendly spaces to help students have a positive university experience.

Sensory Rooms can help.

In Australia, The University of Wollongong created a Multi Sensory Room for students who have difficulty who feeling calm, regulating their emotions, or being receptive to learning.  The room offers a break and a place to regain composure.   They describe students feeling in the danger zone when student have trouble regaining a sense of calm. In the sensory room, there are bubble tubes, dim lights, cushions, creating a comfortable and relaxing environment.

The Bridges to Adelphi program of Adelphi University also created a sensory room. The room will be open to anyone on campus but students with autism and sensory issues are thought to be its most common users. It has a bubble wall with air bubbles going slowly through tubes.  Lighting is dim.  There are several blue big cushions on the ground for students to sit on or lie down and there is a blue hanging seat for those who like to swing.  Foam mats on the floor reduce noise too.

The University of Warwick created a sensory study room in the library, by the Postgraduate Community Engagement Team. It also has a light/bubble tube.  The room has LED strip lighting and lamps.  Furniture includes a rocking chair, a bean bag, and a wobble cushion. Various sensory fidgets, relaxing music, aroma cubes, and a yoga mat are also made available.

In the USA, Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa announced they were creating a sensory room that provides various activities for the students who have sensory processing disorders as the newest addition to the Autism Resources for Career and Higher Education (ARCH) Program. It is a small room where you can find games, sensory fidgets, a punching bag, and a trampoline for example.

March 2018, Dublin City University in Ireland also created a sensory study room in the library, where the first sensory pod was installed to help students with autism by providing a quiet space, which was designed mainly by the Dublin City University School of Nursing and Human Sciences. The sensory pod looks like a white plastic container from a spacecraft with a comfortable interior design.

Sensory Activities are taking the stage.

Sensory activities include sensory friendly movies, performances, and other events.  Universities are taking the lead here too.

California State University organized a sensory-friendly film “Coco” with discounted tickets. The film had lowered sound and dimmed lights, as well as wheelchair accessibility.

The University of Maine provided a free sensory friendly movie for children with autism “Stubby an American Hero”.

Western Michigan University provided a sensory friendly performance for the first time for guests with autism or other special needs. The lights and sound were adjusted to be sensory friendly. And the patrons had a chance to get close to the puppet friends before the show started to help reduce anxiety.

In the UK, Durham University organized a sensory friendly activity time for children with autism or sensory impairments and their families to make a Japanese fish plate, making their own fish by art materials.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison provides a sensory friendly night event for people with autism. They worked with the staff of Cwasr restaurant who were trained to understand more about autism, so they could provide a sensory friendly dining experience.

Finally, the University of Louisville also organized a sensory friendly performance, created a safe and nurturing environment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other individuals with sensory sensitivities. The performance had what they describe as a fluid atmosphere; extra space between patrons; freedom to vocalize and move and switch seats; and an ability of the audience to exit and enter during the performance.

Initiatives like sensory friendly performances allow students and the audience alike to understand and enjoy positive university experiences together.

2nd floor, Oland Hall, Saint John Campus

This is me, blog writer, Elaine, MBA intern at Sensory Friendly Solutions.  I found a spot that is sensory friendly in the University of New Brunswick, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, where I am completing my studies.

Down a corridor there is this little spot between classrooms and offices in Oland Hall. Students and professors alike,  who want a break, can sit down on these sofas and enjoy the peaceful environment. When I sit there, I like to feel the warmth of the sunlight and calmness that sitting amongst plants brings.  I would love to see more places like this on my campus.

Sensory Friendly spaces at University

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