Sensory rooms are designed to create a safe, calm environment for people. They are useful for people who have autism, Asperger's syndrome and sensory processing disorders. The rooms are usually designed with visual, audio, olfactory, vestibular and tactile factors considered. Colour is just one of the senses that sensory rooms use to calm and rehabilitate people.
There is no one best colour scheme for sensory rooms because people respond differently to colours. Diana Vining from the University of Pennsylvania theorises that the response to colour is learnt and not innate, meaning the calming effect of colours are based on a person's experiences. It appears, however, that certain colours are widely perceived as calming by many people. Consider the person or persons you are designing the sensory room for when choosing a colour scheme.
Calming ocean blues
Blue has a calming effect on many people. Shades of blue can invoke the feeling of sitting at a beach with serene ocean waters. The Karlins Center designed a sensory room using ocean colours after noticing several patients enjoyed water themes, the Autism-Asperger's Digest says. Create an ocean-themed sensory room by painting walls ocean blue colours and decorating with blue or sand-coloured tan furniture. Get creative if you want and paint a beach mural on the walls and place ocean-themed stuffed animals in the room.
To some people, the illusion of sitting in a peaceful forest invokes a sense of calm. Create a forest-themed sensory room by painting a tree mural over sky-blue walls. Enhance the illusion by panting a mural of a sparsely cloudy sky on the ceiling. Furnish the room with light shades of brown, green or blue furniture.
Lack of colour
Research suggests a lack of colour is relaxing to some people, says occupational therapist practitioner Carolyn Cantu. An all-white or an all-black room creates a sense of calm, safety and comfort because it does not overstimulate the senses.
An all-white room creates the illusion of a large space, while an all-black room may be more comforting to a person who feels safer in small spaces.
In an all-white sensory room, all walls and furnishings should be white, and in an all-black sensory room, all walls and furnishings should be black. You can use paint or sheets as coverings for the walls to create white or black sensory rooms.
Use black lights or coloured lights to set the mood in a sensory room. Different styles of lighting can affect a person's mood in various ways. Soft pink light may calm one person, while blue lights may be preferred by another.
To stimulate visual senses and encourage attention focusing skills, Hattie Larlham suggests using disco lights and kaleidoscope projectors to create lighting affects on walls.
- Why We Think Blue is Calming: Color-Mood Associations as Learned or Innate; Diana Vining; University of Pennsylvania; April 26, 2006
- "Designing a Sensory Resource Room"; Autism-Asperger's Digest; July-August 2004