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Monday February 21st, 2011

Posted at 9:30am

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Children enjoy another play area complete with disco ball, lights, and interactive sensory busy and glow board. (Photo By: Jennifer O'Hara)

For those with severe physical and developmental disabilities, two rooms are offering new hope.

After an open house on Tuesday, February 8, at Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s (CNIB) Windsor office, two Snoezelen rooms are in business.

“Snoezelen is a registered name for a type of philosophy,” said Jody Lowrie, CNIB’s Early Childhood Vision Consultant/ Early Intervention Specialist for the Blind-Low Vision Program. “It’s used with specially designed equipment or a room that promotes sensation, relaxation and leisure driven by the individual it’s intended for.”

Lowrie is familiar with severe disabilities; her son is autistic and blind. Until 1998, when a Snoezelen room opened at Hospice, people had to travel to Kitchener to use one. The sensory stimulation therapy gave her son a chance to relax and stopped him from biting himself.

Hanna holds up some strands from the shimmering light-curtain. (Photo By: Jennifer O'Hara)

Due to lack of funding, the Hospice location was recently forced to close. Realizing there was available space at CNIB, Lowrie made the pitch to host two rooms there.

“I had seen that we had extra office space in our local office that wasn’t always being utilized and asked if we could transform it into Snoezelen rooms,” she said. “… Approval came from Sherry Malcho, Regional Manager for Southwestern CNIB. I had been using the room in Windsor with the young clients I work with and was aware of it’s closure due to lack of funding so I proposed to the Windsor-Essex Sensory Community Centre that ‘if CNIB kept it as a Community Room would they donate the equipment to us?'”

Hanna takes a closer look and enjoys one of the vibrating bubble tubes. (Photo By: Jennifer O'Hara)

The group approved the donation, thanks in large part to Marlene Crawford. Being involved with the room at Hospice since its inception, keeping it in the community meant a lot to her.

One room contains two vibrating bubble tubes, a shimmering light-curtain, line light that glows in black light, mirrors, a bean bag and rocking chair, evening breeze, a falling leaf interactive wall panel, soothing music and fits a wheelchair. The other room, geared towards younger users, contains a bubble wall panel, solar projector, mirrorball, waterbed, interactive sensory busy and glow boards, sparkles the clown and traffic light.

With mirrors behind her, Hanna stands behind one of the vibrating bubble tubes. (Photo By: Jennifer O'Hara)

To book a room, caregivers can call CNIB at 519-253-1900 (ext. 5190.) Those calling are asked to leave a message stating their name, the individual who would be using the room and phone number. A volunteer will set up an appointment to assess the individual, who will then be allowed to use the room pending approval from the Snoezelen committee. A $2 fee is also required for non-CNIB clients.

The organization is also looking for volunteers to help with the rooms. Anyone interested can either call or visit the office on 245 Jeanette Ave.

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