This is the first edition of our "Exploring Sensory Spaces", a chance for us to reflect and promote healthy discussion and debate about our industry. To kick us off, we have a very thought-provoking topic to discuss. 

Sensory rooms are designed to provide a safe and stimulating environment for individuals to engage and explore their senses. These spaces aim to help integrate individuals into their surroundings, allowing them to develop sensory processing skills. But with the rise of tablet computers and their increasing popularity, the question arises: Do these devices have a place in a sensory therapy session?

On one hand, tablet computers can offer a variety of sensory experiences through apps and interactive games. They can provide visual and auditory stimulation, helping to engage individuals in a therapeutic setting. For some individuals, particularly those with specific needs or preferences, tablets can serve as a useful tool to enhance their sensory exploration. 

Additionally, the demand from Schools for tablet control in sensory therapy sessions cannot be ignored. Many customers and caregivers have become accustomed to the use of technology in various aspects of their lives. Equipment providers have responded to this demand by incorporating tablets room control apps into their offerings, as they see the potential benefits and opportunities they provide. However, it's essential to question whether a child staring at a tablet screen when they are meant to be exploring their physical space aligns with the goals of sensory therapy? As we know Sensory rooms are meant to encourage the use of all senses, promoting tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular experiences. Simply looking at a screen and “tapping it” does not provide the same level of sensory engagement.Tablet computers in sensory therapy sessionsExample, if a light switch is flicked, the lights will turn on. This is a basic cause and effect situation where the resulting action from pressing a switch has given the user the control to influence their surroundings. The user may have enjoyed the click, the tactile input, the audible feedback and the fact that they are in control. Too often in everyday life, we see users with phones or tablets mindlessly tapping away without registering what they are doing (I think it is known as doom scrolling for the social media addicts). 

So the question has to be asked, if you can change the colour of the sensory lights on a tablet, do we really think that the overall room colour change is more engaging than this piece of tech. If not, why use it?
Ultimately, it's important to strike a balance between utilising technology as a tool and ensuring that individuals have ample opportunities for hands-on exploration. Perhaps tablets should be seen as supplementary tools rather than the main focus of sensory therapy sessions. They can be used strategically and intentionally to enhance specific aspects of the therapy, such as providing visual support or introducing calming audio.

The decision to incorporate tablet computers in sensory therapy sessions should be based on the individual's needs, goals, and the professional judgement of the therapist. Each person is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. The key is to maintain a holistic approach to sensory therapy, providing a balance between technology and hands-on experiences.

As technology continues to evolve, it's crucial for therapists and caregivers to stay informed and updated about the latest research and best practices in sensory therapy. Regular evaluations and assessments should be conducted to ensure that the therapy sessions are effective and align with the individual's progress and goals.

An alternative to controlling equipment with tablets, the 
Nine Switch KeyboardImage used courtesy of Mike Ayres Design.

Further reading:

Feel free to comment and join the conversation, here at Southpaw we want to hear from you on a range of topics.

If you're looking to create a sensory integration space or multi-sensory environment then book your free design visit today with Southpaw.