A visit to the hospital can be a stressful and overwhelming experience for any child, especially for those with autism spectrum disorder, neurodevelopmental disorders or behavioral health disorders. To help ease their anxieties and create a more positive patient experience, Akron Children’s has sensory rooms on both our Akron and Beeghly campuses. In Akron, the sensory room is located in the pre-op surgery area in the main hospital building. In Boardman, the sensory room is in Building A, where Akron Children’s Pediatrics and our specialty services are located.
These sensory rooms have features such as dimmable lights, comfortable furnishings and the ability to play calming music or sounds to create a soothing environment. They provide a quiet space where patient families can go to calm an overstimulated or agitated child. They are also beneficial to parents who may be managing their own stress as they try to soothe and comfort their child.
The sensory room in the surgery area is used for pre-op patients who are waiting to go back to surgery. A few features of this room are a sensory pea pod that a child can climb into for a cozy and soothing sensory experience and a vibrating floor pad to help soothe and relax them.
“With input from patients’ caregivers, child life specialists and multidisciplinary staff assess if a patient would benefit from the sensory room to potentially decrease anxiety and promote positive coping prior to surgery,” said Brittany Deckert, a certified child life specialist on the Akron campus.
The sensory room in Boardman also has a sensory pea pod, as well as other features such as overhead light filters in tranquil blue, a Glitter Rods Activity Wall Panel, a NeoRok Move Autism Stool that gently rocks, and a Loco-Motion Sphere Wall Panel activity toy with wires, beads and gears mounted on a colorful background.
Along with these designated sensory rooms, Akron Children’s has sensory carts available on inpatient units and the Mahoning Valley pediatrics unit. The pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) has sensory bubble tubes in each patient room that were donated by SantapicsU. The PICU and behavioral health have a sensory mobile rover cart. In addition, Child’s Play, a loyal Akron Children’s supporter, recently donated a sensory mobile rover cart to the child life department.
These carts provide convenient access to a variety of calming sensory experiences and activities that help relieve stress and anxiety and provide a diversion for patients with sensory needs. Child life specialists also have additional supplies to help patients manage sensory issues including weighted blankets, fidget toys, noise-cancelling headphones to reduce over-stimulation and chewable toys for patients with oral sensory needs.
“Each individual patient has specific developmental needs that should be considered when providing high-quality care,” said Brittany. “A patient’s sensory needs are an important component that impacts their ability to cope effectively in a medical setting.”