Snoezelen or controlled multisensory environment (MSE) is a therapy for people with autism and other developmental disabilitiesdementia or brain injury. It consists of placing the person in a soothing and stimulating environment, called the “Snoezelen room”. These rooms are specially designed to deliver stimuli to various senses, using lighting effects, color, sounds, music, scents, etc. The combination of different materials on a wall may be explored using tactile senses, and the floor may be adjusted to stimulate the sense of balance. The person is usually accompanied by an aide or therapist.

The term “Snoezelen” (pronounced /ˈsnuzələ(n)/) is a neologism formed from a blend of the Dutch “snuffelen” (to snuggle, also: to sniff) and “doezelen” (to doze, to snooze). It was coined by Jan Hulsegge and Ad Verheul who developed the concept while working at De Hartenberg Institute in the Netherlands.

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  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Development deficits
  • Post-stroke (stroke)
  • Autism
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Hyper or Hypo sensitivity


  • Promotes relaxation, leisure and fun;
  • Stimulates the primary senses;
  • It allows exploration, discovery, choice and the opportunity to control the environment;
  • Increases the user’s understanding likes/dislikes
  • It allows sphincter stimulation;
  • The variety of activities allows to explore needs as well as preferences;
  • Allows individual or group work, serving to control anxiety;
  • Encourages movement and motivation;
  • Motivates for learning;
  • Facilitates the stress release;
  • It promotes the awareness of the technical team about the importance of the primary senses;
  • The use of sensory equipment can be beneficial for all ages and diagnoses;
  • It stimulates the emergence of positive emotions such as well-being, relaxation, satisfaction and joy.

Snoezelen Program

How it works?

Ideally, Snoezelen is a non-directive therapy, controlled by the client and not by the therapist. It can be staged to provide a multi-sensory experience or single sensory focus, simply by adapting the lighting, atmosphere, sounds, and textures to the specific needs of the client at the time of use. There is no formal focus on therapeutic outcome—the focus is to assist users to gain the maximum pleasure from the activity in which they and the enabler are involved. An advantage of Snoezelen therapy is that it does not rely on verbal communication and may be beneficial for people with profound autism, as it may provide stimulation for those who would otherwise be almost impossible to reach.

Snoezelen therapy relates to the interdependence of both the space (the physical environment) and the “client-centered” approach of the practitioner (the human environment). The specially designed sensory physical environment together with the input of the “enabling practitioner” initiates changes in arousal by affecting the relaxation process, reducing anxiety/pain (both physical and emotional). It aims to maximize a person’s potential to focus on his own free will and to engage on a motivational stimulus (object, activity or person), and thereby to improve communication and functioning.

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