History of Developmental Services

The institutions (or facilities, as they came to be called) had sensory training rooms to give the residents - both children and adults - a full range of sensory stimulation. The first sensory training department in Ontario's institutions was developed in 1926.

In the 1990s, the sensory training rooms in some of the remaining facilities evolved into Snoezelen rooms. First developed in Denmark in the 1970s, these Snoezelen rooms provided a range of sensory stimulation.

These were specially-built rooms that usually had the following features:

  • soft floors
  • cushions
  • music
  • lighting effects
  • gentle vibrations, and
  • tactile sensations.

Residents could explore and enjoy the relaxed environment. Some even featured waterbeds and trampolines.

Originally, sensory training rooms were intended to provide relaxation and leisure activities. Over time, the rooms were used to help individuals with severe and mild disabilities develop their fine motor skills. Eventually, some facilities developed structured programs to assess the progress of individuals.

The Snoezelen Room at the Rideau Regional Centre attracted visitors from across Canada and the United States, as well as England, Russia, Tahiti, Japan and the Netherlands.


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