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CDU’s new Sensory Space is a calming place

sensory space launch
The special room features subdued lighting, complementary colours, calming sounds and images of nature.

A new Sensory Space at Charles Darwin University (CDU) is providing a safe and comforting environment for students to experience a range of sensory stimuli, promoting a sense of calmness.

The room is designed for students living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, sensory disorders, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, mental health conditions, anxiety, or depression, or those needing some time out.

The therapeutic room is available to all CDU students and includes sensory equipment that can stimulate a student’s mental activity, provide a relaxing environment and promote interaction.

The space, designed and equipped as a multipurpose sensory room, was developed by CDU’s Access and Inclusion team within Student Support, and is currently in a pilot phase. The Access and Inclusion practitioners welcome feedback that can inform how to set up future spaces for different needs across CDU’s campuses.

CDU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Students and Vocational Education and Training, Sam Jacob, highlighted the importance of a room such as this in terms of student inclusivity and support.

“It’s a place that provides security, improves creativity, promotes mental and physical relaxation, and can result in students feeling calm, centred and happy,” Ms Jacob said.

“We know that sensory spaces are becoming increasingly prevalent in educational institutions and workplaces and can be used to calm people with agitation or anxiety while also engaging those who are more withdrawn from their environment.”

The special room features subdued lighting, complimentary colours, calming sounds and images of nature, a variety of seating, weighted lap pads and toys, textured items, puzzles, colouring books, Lego, plants, sensory items and more.

Students are encouraged to make the space their own. For example:

• A student with anxiety may dim the lights and put on calming sounds or reflect on the photos of nature on the TV to help create a relaxing atmosphere

• A student with ADHD may touch and hold the fibre optic lighting or use fidget spinners and other sensory toys, which can assist with their attention skills and is an effective way to relieve restlessness

• A student who has autism may benefit from using the weighted lap pads, or draw and do puzzles to help self-regulate their feelings and feel more relaxed if confronted with discomfort throughout the day.

For their work on the sensory space, CDU’s Access and Inclusion team has been nominated for an Innovation Award in the 2021 NT Disability Services and Inclusion Awards.

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