Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Snoezelen[R] MSE Approach to Challenging Behaviors

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Snoezelen[R] MSE Approach to Challenging Behaviors

Article excerpt

"VIRGINIA" USED THE SNOEZELEN EXPERIENCE TO BECOME CALMER. SHE RELAXED THROUGH THE EXPLORATION OF LIGHT AND SOUND AND BEGAN TO ROCK IN THE ROCKING CHAIR IN A SLOW RHYTHMICAL PACE.

Because of the unique background and history of many of the individuals I serve, and because of the complications stemming from their often complex diagnoses, I would like to share with you, step by step, the route that I take as I approach an individual and invite him or her to try the Snoezelen experience. Please note that although my position paper on this was written in 1998, and some of the material is outdated due to the advancement of the sciences; I feel the basic philosophy and concepts remain current.

MEET "VIRGINIA"

"Virginia" (not her real name) is self abusive. She punches her face or hits herself with a shoe and disrobes, taking off her shirt. She locks her own arms in her shirt at other times. She appears to be in constant motion in her environment. She is either standing or sitting or attempting to lock herself into a corner of the activity room in direct sight of people. She repetitively alternates between sitting in a chair (which she pushes continuously back into a wall), and standing up, rocking, and then sitting again. She will do this hundreds of times throughout the day. She makes low-pitched noises and rocks forward and back. Virginia appears to have no purposeful activity other than to feed herself. She does not smile or make direct eye contact. Her head position is held flexed and towards the side. She gazes up from this position to watch her surroundings. She is hyper-vigilant to her environment and moves quickly when someone approaches. Virginia is a toe walker. "Virginia" is one of our individuals who appears to be in a chronic state of "Fright & Flight & Fight" with "Sensory Defensiveness."

BEFORE ENTERING THE SNOEZELEN ENVIRONMENT, WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD ONE OBTAIN?

Building a Sensory History: Prior to taking someone into the Snoezelen environment, you must obtain the person's medical and birth history if possible, as well as current medications, living situation, sleeping, eating habits and behavior patterns. Such information will give you a "whole person-centered picture." At this point in time, you are not necessarily concerned about diagnosis and clinical opinion. The individual should be observed across as many different environments as possible. The goal is to look for clues to their sensory preferences. You may find clues on the transportation ride, their home and their community at large. Always remember that people tend to function differently in various environments. The idea is to configure the set-up and potential priorities of equipment engagement that would be non-threatening to the individual and coincide with their personal preferences as much as possible. You want to try and ensure as much success on the first visit as possible. You are entering into a journey of trust with the individual that you hope will give them a quality of life of their choosing.

OBSERVATIONS IN THE SNOEZELEN ROOM

Virginia's behavior on the first session was one of constant motion, with her head position facing down at the floor and her eyes glancing upward in fleeting vigilance to watch her surroundings. She was hitting the side of her face with her shoe and hand. She had kicked off both of her shoes as she entered the room. As the lights were slowly dimmed and the light and sound wall started, she came over to me and stood six inches from my chest, but continued with the described behavior. Virginia stayed in this position for an extended period of time and then side-stepped to look around me at the corner sound and light wall. She turned and sat in the rocking chair for a few seconds. She stood and rocked, but the rocking pace slowed down. And then, she sat down again and crossed her legs. This was repeated six times. Her face slapping had stopped and her arms, which had been held close to her chest, were down, and at her sides away from her body. …

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