Snoezelen room helps balance the sensory load.

February 11, 2011

(From A little change can be a big challenge for Adam Mansell.

The Portland boy, who turns 11 Wednesday, has multiple medical conditions including cerebral palsy and autism. Even everyday transitions such as coming home from school cause stress that Adam works out with shouts, tears or long jags of repetitive talking.

So recreational therapist Elizabeth Sullivan isn't sure what will happen as she eases Adam from his wheelchair onto a large beanbag in a small room in the Providence Center for Medically Fragile Children, Adam's home.

"I want to see what you're going to do," occupational therapist Karen Nagao says as she works a bank of switches, turning off the overhead lights and sending constellations of green lights bouncing off mirrors and spinning around the room's padded white walls.

Adam looks wide-eyed as Sullivan starts a CD of music reminiscent of electronic whale songs. Then she slowly fans a horse-tail of fiber optic strands whose light cycles through a rainbow spectrum and in front of Adam's eyes. Quiet and intent, he leans back, head on his hands, and yawns happily.

"He's very calm. Look at this pose," Sullivan says.

He's Snoezelen.

Snoezelen (pronounced SNOOZE-len) is a form of therapy that offers sensory stimulation and relaxation to people who may get little of either, from developmentally disabled children to elderly dementia patients. Developed by therapists in the Netherlands (the name combines Dutch verbs snuffelen, to explore, and doezelen, to relax) the treatment presents a sensual feast of light, sounds, smells and textures.
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