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Sensory Experience

Adults with disabilities can explore new sights and sounds at LivItUp.

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For the 67 adult patients at the LivItUp center for adults with disabilities, the world is about to get a little more interesting.

LivItUp will soon have its very own sensory room, a room designed to engage all five senses with mirrors, strobe lights, noise-makers, and other features, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Grainger Foundation.

Tammy DeNiro, director of development at LivItUp, said that the sensory room will provide an experience that most patients have never had before.

"To have a place where we can engage our patients in a nontraditional setting is amazing," DeNiro said. "This is the first time we will be able to engage all of our patients in a more therapeutic atmosphere."

LivItUp has served disabled adults in Memphis for more than 30 years. The group originally existed as United Cerebral Palsy of the Mid-South before changing their name to LivItUp in 2011. And while LivItUp has always tried new ways of reaching the adult patients they help, this will be the first time they've tried a sensory room.

Complete with lighted five-foot bubble tubes, fiber-optic curtains, strobe lights, mirrors, objects that create noise and vibration, interactive light panels, and a solar wheel rotator, the room will provide patients with a full-on sensory experience.

While the room will be open to all the patients at LivItUp, there will only be eight people allowed in the room at one time. There are also planned activities that go with each component in the room, allowing for a structured but therapeutic environment.

Developed in the 1970s in the Netherlands as part of the Snoezelen therapy technique, a sensory room offers stimulation and relaxation to people who may get little of either, especially children and adults with various types of disabilities. The rooms are most often used as a therapy technique for people with autism and other developmental disabilities because the results do not rely on verbal communication. The Snoezelen (which translates to "seek out" or "explore") technique is also one of the first nondirective therapies used by LivItUp, meaning the patient, not the therapist, controls the session.

"With the sensory room you see reactions [from the patients] that are so much different from any other activity we engage in," DeNiro said. "It's so much more engaging than just sitting down and putting together a puzzle with someone. It's amazing what something as simple as music or lighting can do for those who aren't able to express what they are feeling."

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