British Journal of Clinical Psychology

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Volume 37 Issue 1 (February 1998), Pages 1-126

Behavioural effects of long‐term multi‐sensory stimulation (pages 69-82)

Objectives. Regular access to a multi‐sensory environment (MSE or Snoezelen room) was compared with a non‐complex sensory environment for individuals with learning disabilities. We also tested the prediction that those individuals whose challenging behaviour was maintained by sensory consequences would benefit most from exposure to the MSE.

Design. The conditions were compared over 16‐week periods using a double crossover design, and were matched for social contact and attention from the enabler. Participants were randomly assigned to orders of treatments.

Methods. Participants were 27 adults with severe/profound learning disabilities who exhibited challenging behaviour. Behaviour was assessed before and after each treatment phase using both direct observation and standardized assessments (the Functional Performance Record and the Problem Behaviour Inventory). The behavioural observations formed the basis of a functional analysis of each individual's challenging behaviour.

Results. Some participants became more calm and relaxed while in the MSE, however, the objective measures of behaviour outside the treatment settings revealed no difference between the MSE and control conditions. Challenging behaviour maintained by sensory consequences showed no greater responsivity to the MSE than to the control condition.

Conclusions. The multi‐sensory environment had no effects beyond those that could be ascribed to the social interaction between participant and enabler. Anecdotal evidence of favourable responses within the MSE itself could not be confirmed outside the environment.

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