This policy describes the purpose of a sensory room and sets out the requirements for when and how a sensory room may be used by a school to support a student.
- An occupational therapist with relevant expertise must be consulted in the design, implementation, and evaluation of a sensory room and in devising specific programs for individual students.
- Every student using a sensory room must have an individual education plan (IEP). The use of a sensory room must be linked to specific learning goals and success criteria, regularly evaluated to assess the effectiveness on the student’s progress and documented in the student’s IEP or similarly named plan.
For the purposes of this policy, a sensory room is a controlled and intentionally created space that provides multi-sensory resources to support a student’s sensory needs to enable them to engage in learning.
The naming of sensory rooms varies from school to school. Sensory rooms may be referred to as, among other names, multi-sensory environments, Snoezelen rooms, multi-sensory rooms, sensory playgrounds, sensory modulation rooms, Zen rooms, and quiet rooms.
Sensory rooms can be used by schools as a resource to support students’ sensory needs so they can achieve their learning goals.
Sensory rooms are to be used in a manner that proactively supports and responds to the student’s sensory needs and not reactively in response to problematic, challenging or maladaptive behaviour. Sensory rooms must not be used in the disciplining of students.
Schools with sensory rooms must keep students engaged in regular education settings, such as classrooms, for most of each school day.
Every student using a sensory room must have learning goals and success criteria linked to the use of the room. A student’s progress and achievement must be evaluated and documented in their IEP or similarly named plan.
Students must be actively supervised and engaged in sensory activities by staff when in sensory rooms.
Supervisory staff must support students’ safe use of sensory rooms and engagement in learning according to the student’s needs.
An occupational therapist and other appropriately qualified and experienced allied health practitioners must be involved in the implementation and evaluation of student supports in sensory rooms.
Schools must provide consulting occupational therapists with a link to this policy and ensure compliance with it and the department’s Records Management policy.
Use of sensory rooms
Sensory rooms must only be used:
- for students who have been assessed by an occupational therapist as having sensory needs
- in accordance with the occupational therapist’s recommendations.
Students must not be left alone in a sensory room and must be supervised and engaged in sensory activities and experiences provided by a staff member.
Doors of sensory rooms must remain open whilst the room is in use where this causes little or no inconvenience. This includes when staff are working with one or more students in the room. Where the door of a sensory room is exposed to weather, noise or light that interferes with activities in the room, the door may be closed.
Sensory rooms must be continually evaluated by school staff to ensure they are safe, are being used as intended, and are contributing to positive student outcomes, as described in a student's IEP or similarly named plan.
All equipment in sensory rooms must undergo periodic checks by school staff to ensure they are in good working order and are clean and safe to use.
Student use of sensory rooms must be scheduled to provide equitable access by all students with an identified need. Equitable access should be based on student need, not simply equity of time.
Design of sensory rooms
An occupational therapist with relevant expertise must be consulted in the design, implementation and evaluation of a sensory room and in devising specific programs for individual students. If in-situ consultation is not possible, remote consultation may occur.
The design of a sensory room must be based on the needs of the students using the room and the school’s local context. The needs of students using a room may vary over time necessitating modifications to the room.
Schools that are proposing to establish a sensory room should provide details to the school community about how the room will be used and how student outcomes will be evaluated, consistent with this policy.
Schools must critically reflect on their need for a sensory room, acknowledging that their establishment can take considerable time, resources and funds, and may not necessarily contribute to improved student outcomes.
Schools are expected to support all students in their classrooms within existing tiered supports and across the school environment and routines as much as possible without the use of a designated sensory room. Refer to and .
Limits and prohibitions on certain practices
Sensory rooms must not be used in the disciplining of students. Using sensory rooms in response to student behaviour may reinforce the student’s use of the challenging behaviour.
Sensory rooms must not be used for the purpose of separating students from their peers, either during class or break times.
Sensory rooms are not an alternative curriculum or alternative to formal education.
Sensory rooms are not alternative play spaces for students who prefer not to play outside.
Deep pressure therapy
There are numerous deep pressure therapy items on the market and the department cannot list them all, nor can every behavioural scenario in which they are used be described.
With the exception of deep pressure applied for a therapeutic purpose, prescribed by an occupational therapist, the department does not support the use of deep pressure therapy as its application can pose a risk to the health and safety of students, and alternative interventions that address the function of a student’s behaviour are more effective.
What is deep pressure therapy
Weighted items apply deep pressure to muscles and joints through weight. These items tend to be worn or applied over regular clothing. Examples of weighted items include, but are not limited to, weighted blankets, lap pads, backpacks, and vests.
Compression items apply deep pressure to muscles and joints through compression. These items tend to be worn under, not over, regular clothing. Examples of compression items include, but are not limited to, compression body suits, compression shorts, and compression singlets or vests.
Other types of deep pressure therapy that some health practitioners may prescribe include holding, stroking, hugging, squeezing and therapeutic brushing. Holding, hugging, and squeezing a student for ‘sensory’ purposes is not permitted in Victorian government schools.
Therapeutic use of deep pressure therapy
The use of weighted and compression items to apply deep pressure is only permitted when prescribed by an occupational therapist for a therapeutic purpose.
Prescriptions from occupational therapists must be in writing and describe the purpose, or goal, of using the prescribed equipment.
Using the department’s equipment prescription template ensures a student’s needs and the therapeutic purpose of the prescribed item are documented.
Therapeutic purposes include:
- providing support to achieve proper body position, balance, or alignment to allow greater freedom of mobility than would be possible without the use of such devices or mechanical supports
- providing temporary immobilisation for medical purposes (for example, a cast or splint to allow healing)
- permitting a student to participate in activities without risk of physical harm (for example, ride a tricycle).
The use of an item for therapeutic purposes must be:
- based on an assessment of a student’s need by an occupational therapist
- based on evidence for how the prescribed item will help the student
- be individually fitted for the student.
Using the department’s equipment prescription template also ensures that there is appropriate documentation by:
- explaining how the prescribed item will be used, including the goals that the item will help to achieve, how long the item can be applied for and when it must be removed based on that assessment
- outlining what training staff need to use, or supervise the use of the prescribed item safely
- detailing when the use of the prescribed item will be reviewed and how and when the goals will be evaluated.
Individual Education Plan (IEP)
A written statement of the educational program designed to meet a student’s individual needs.
Occupational therapist (OT)
An occupational therapist (OT) is a degree-based health professional regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Occupational therapists use a whole person perspective to work with individuals, groups and communities to achieve optimal health and wellbeing through participation in the occupations of life, including education. In the school setting, occupational therapists facilitate students’ occupations including accessing the curriculum, playing/socialising, and self-care.
Problem, challenging or maladaptive behaviour
Behaviour that interferes with the learning of the student or the learning of other students.
A controlled and intentionally created space that provides multi-sensory resources to support a student’s sensory needs to enable them to engage in learning.
Reviewed 24 November 2022