What Is Happening in Our Multi-sensory Rooms?

This day is currently undergoing its CPD certification.

Scroll down if you are thinking about Ofsted or considering CQC.

This event explores current practice in multi-sensory rooms, reviewing the research conducted into the rooms since their inception fifty years ago and asking challenging questions about how the rooms' latent potential.

Delegates will learn:

    • How to maximise the potential within their multi-sensory environments, be they multi-sensory rooms or improvised spaces.

    • Three features identified by research as being essential to effective multi-sensory rooms.

    • Twelve factors identified by research as impacting upon effective multi-sensory room practice.

    • Twelve characteristics identified by research as being critical to the functioning of the most important piece of equipment in any multi-sensory room: the people!

    • What to consider when creating a multi-sensory environment.

    • How to avoid the pitfalls commonly associated with ineffective multi-sensory room practice.

    • How to use inexpensive resources to create effective multi-sensory environments.

    • How to ensure specialist multi-sensory room equipment is used to its full potential.

And much much more...

A book to go with the course? Try:


Thinking about Ofsted?

The Department for Education specify multi-sensory rooms as a necessary part of adequate provision for children and young people with learning disabilities. (DFE 2015, pg 51) . We want out rooms to be more than adequate, we want them to be exceptional. Contrasting what practitioners in the rooms today report with what Ofsted say they are looking for helps us see why a new reflective approach to multi-sensory room practice is desirable.

Ofsted want to see that “teaching is designed to help learners remember in the long term the content they have been taught and to integrate new knowledge into larger concepts” (EIF 2019 p 10). Yet practitioners working in multi-sensory rooms frequently report that learning acquired within the rooms is not carried over as students leave the rooms. Why not?

Ofsted value the learning environment highly, listing a calm and orderly environment as essential for pupils learning (SIH 2019 p 52) and asking that teachers create an environment that allows learners to focus on learning (EIF 2019 p 10). Ofsted say that they will look at how leaders and staff “create a safe, calm, orderly and positive environment in the school and the impact this has on the behaviour and attitudes of pupils.” (SIH 2019 P 52) Practitioners endorse the importance of environment for learning, some cite that for their students with profound learning disabilities the multi-sensory room is their optimum learning environment. Yet many practitioners report working practices that prevent their multi- sensory rooms from being calm and orderly, or practices that disrupt the valuable learning that takes place within the rooms. How can such practices be avoided?

Ofsted ask that schools promote “equality of opportunity so that all pupils can thrive together, understanding that difference is a positive, not a negative, and that individual characteristics make people unique” going on to say that schools should promote “an inclusive environment that meets the needs of all pupils, irrespective of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation” (SIH 2019 p 58).

With regards to multi-sensory rooms unreflective practice sometimes views equal opportunity as a timetable upon which everyone gets equal time in the room. This approach does not consider the unique differences, or the requirement to meet the needs of all pupils (Ofsted look at how well we identify and meet the needs of all pupils SIH 2019 p 92). Within a mixed ability school you may have children whose optimum learning environment is the multi-sensory room who are unable to learn in the regular classroom environment and children whose optimum learning environment is the classroom but who very much enjoy visiting the multi-sensory room. Equality of opportunity is not equal distribution it is considered reflective distribution that allows each child to spend as much time as possible in their optimum learning environment. How do you ensure your students have ready access to optimal learning environments?

When considering inclusive environments we recognize that being inclusive goes much deeper than simply inviting someone in. An environment which removes capacity, e.g. an environment where an otherwise ambulant child cannot walk, or where support equipment such as hoists cannot be used, or an environment where sensory systems are overloaded, is not an inclusive environment. Exploring the research around the accessibility of multi-sensory rooms will enable you to consider whether the room you have access to is truly an inclusive environment. Is your multi-sensory room accessible to all its users?

Ofsted review how successfully leaders employ other professionals and specialist services in deciding how best to support their pupils (SIH 2019 p 92), they also look at how well the school assesses the impact of additional or different provision for students (SIH 2019 p 92). Considering the expense involved in installing and maintaining a multi-sensory room it is logical to presume that settings seeking to be outstanding would ensure they are reaping the maximum benefits from such a resource by accessing specialist knowledge about its use. You are likely to have had training on how to operate your multi-sensory room, have you had support as you consider how to use it?

SIH = School Inspection Handbook 2019

EIF = Education Inspection Framework 2019

Considering CQC?

CQC’s descriptions of outstanding service describe settings that are creative and innovative, staffed with exceptionally well trained people who empower those they work on behalf of. They speak of settings seeking out current best practice and ensuring all their staff have access to the learning. Outstanding settings recognise the preferences of their residents and are constantly on the lookout for new ideas.

Sometimes the ‘innovative’ above is taken to mean the instant adoption of new technologies inspiring settings to install elaborate multisensory rooms or take trips to experience them with the people they support. However research into sensory rooms provides us with examples of rooms being used in ways which are unsafe (FKQ S2.6) to both physical and mental health (S2.7) giving us cause to wonder whether the rooms are as effective (FKQ) provision as we might once have thought.

What is happening in our multisensory rooms? Gives an overview into current research surrounding the use of the rooms, enhanced by insights from experts in the field, equipping staff to think reflectively about the use of the rooms they access. Staff will gain and insight into current best practice in multisensory rooms and be given the opportunity to pick up new creative alternative ideas to use to engage the people they support in immersive sensory spaces.

Ultimately this day will be about much more than multisensory rooms or sensory experiences in general, we will end by considering challenging fundamental questions key to effective (FKQ) caring (FKQ) support of people with profound disabilities. This day contains CPD accredited material (and is soon to be CPD accredited in full) delegates will leave with their minds buzzing with questions, insights and new ideas that will invigorate their practice.

FKQ: Care Quality Commission’s Five Key Questions

References: Care Quality Commission: - Key lines of enquiry, prompts and ratings characteristics for adult social care services.