Multi-sensory room offers relaxation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 22, 2011

PEDRO — As one of the last accomplishments of her 35-year career in education, Vicki Evans hopes the new Snoezelen Room at Rock Hill Elementary will impact children long after she is gone.

The room, a multi-sensory environment meant to relax children with multiple disabilities, opened Friday at the school, just a short time from the end of the school year, when Evans plans to retire.

Evans, assistant principal and head of special education at the school, spearheaded plans for the room and has raised about $13,000 in donations to that end.

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“This is a dream of mine and I wanted to make sure it was accomplished before I left and the money kept coming in,” she said.

Two Dutch therapists developed the idea of Snoezelen rooms in the 1970s, Evans explained. The word Snoezelen comes from two Dutch words meaning to explore and to soothe or rest.

“The goal is for them to relax and to feel balanced,” Evans said. “So they can attend to the work we have for them at school.

In Rock Hill’s room, there is a tent with a ball pit in one corner and a leaf chair, which is meant for the children to sleep in, in another. Other items include a mirror ball hanging from the ceiling as well as a white parachute that covers the room’s ceiling lights to make them softer. There is a beanbag with fiber optic light sprays for the students to discover. A voice-activated black light is another feature of the room.

A timed diffuser fills the air with various scents and can be turned off for students with allergies. Machines that produce soothing white noise are also a part of the room.

“The whole purpose of this room is to relax them,” Evans told a group of parents and community members who toured the room Friday.

For her efforts, the room was named “Ms. Vicki’s Room” in her honor.

“I had no idea,” she said, adding that the children call her “Ms. Vicki.”

“This was all about the kids today but I appreciate what they did, I really do,” she said.

Danelle Mullins, an occupational therapy assistant at the school, said the room will be a safe place for the students to relax.

“This room is going to get some great use, I can’t wait to see the results it gets,” Mullins said. She added that Evans will be missed.

“She’s been wonderful for these kids and this program,” she said. “We’re going to miss her.”

Evans will miss the children, she said.

“The hugs, the smiling faces,” Evans said. “I’m going to miss the kids and the staff, too. They’re like family.”