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Multisensory rooms: essential characteristics and barriers to effective practice

Joanna Grace (The Sensory Projects, Helston, UK)

Tizard Learning Disability Review

ISSN: 1359-5474

Article publication date: 19 June 2020

Issue publication date: 7 July 2020




This paper aims to identify the characteristics practitioners consider essential to effective multisensory rooms and the barriers they experience when trying to realise the potential of such rooms.


The paper presents semi-structured interviews with 27 multisensory room practitioners from a range of backgrounds followed by analysis to identify key characteristics and barriers.


Eleven positive room characteristics were identified. The three deemed most significant were that the rooms are dark, activity associated and uninterrupted spaces. Two negative room characteristics were identified: inaccessible design and broken equipment. Ten barriers to effective multisensory room practice were identified and grouped according to themes of logistics, suboptimal usage and practitioner capabilities.

Research limitations/implications

The research focuses on a small self-selecting sample, coded by one person acting independently of any institution. This is an under researched area which would benefit from further more rigorous investigation.

Practical implications

This research enables practitioners to remove barriers to effective multisensory room practice and to focus on the characteristics most significant in generating benefits for room users. Understanding of the essential characteristics and potential barriers to effective practice will allow practitioners to better exploit limited resources of time, money and staffing.


Past research into multisensory rooms has focused on specific user groups or specific multisensory environments. This research examined multisensory room practice across both a range of environments and a range of users, giving an original overview of current multisensory room usage in the UK.



Grace, J. (2020), "Multisensory rooms: essential characteristics and barriers to effective practice", Tizard Learning Disability Review, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 67-75.



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