By Tina Comeau
The room feels soothing, beautiful even, the instant you walk into it.
Bubbles float to the top of a column of water in a tube reflected off mirrors, as projected lights dance their way across the walls and do a tango with reflective panels, changing the perspective of what appears before you.
The colours in the room slide into one another – white, yellow, blue, purple, orange, red . . . causing a sense of anticipation as you await the next colour change to come.
The fibre optics don’t tease, but rather they invite you to touch them, manipulate them.
The music can be your choice. Your taste.
The room is the sensory room at the Yarmouth Life Skills building on Hawthorn Street (located on the top floor of the same building that houses the Yarmouth Farmers’ Market.)
For Life Skills supervisor Charlene Wilcox, the presence of this room is a dream come true.
Back in the humble beginnings of Yarmouth Life Skills, when it found itself in the basement of a church, Wilcox hoped one day to have the space and the resources to incorporate a sensory room into the Like Skills environment, where post-school aged adults with disabilities learn skills and benefit from programs to contribute to themselves and to the community.
“The whole concept began in the Netherlands and it’s used for people with disabilities to relax, sooth themselves,” Wilcox explains. “We don’t use it as a reward or a punishment room, it’s not a time out room or anything like that. It’s used for the clients to just come in, relax, get ready for the day, maybe they’re anxious, so the decide they’d like to come in and just calm down.”
Seeing, touching, experiencing – it’s all part of the room, Wilcox says.
“The bubble tube is the focal part of the room. We were really lucky that one of the local auto glass companies came in and installed these mirrors for us, at no charge, so that it really looks like we have (more) tubes instead of just the one,” says Wilcox.
The changing colors in the room can occur automatically, or be controlled by remote control.
“I would say most of our clients use the room,” adds Wilcox. “It’s their choice when they want to come in and use it.”
The funding to help make the sensory room a reality came from two major sources: a Telus Communication grant, and five annual wellness grants from the Yarmouth County Community Health Board.
Because the organization’s clients leave each day at 3 p.m., Wilcox says Yarmouth Life Skills would like to make the room available to others in the community. For a nominal fee, people can contact Yarmouth Life Skills at 902-742-7744 to make an appointment for the late afternoon to use the room.
“We definitely would like to see it used by the public,” says Wilcox. “This is the only multi-sensory environment in our immediate area, as far as we know.”