Good times in Goodwill's Snoezelen room

       For the past five years, about 40 severely disabled clients at the Westside's Goodwill Industries Recreation and Leisure Center have had a special place to go. Snoezelen, as it's called, is a large, carpeted space with soothing offerings for sight, sound, touch and smell. Relaxing music and soft lighting provide backdrops for various tactile “stations” within the room.
       An addition to the Snoezelen experience four times since August has been live music - John Skrivan playing a didgeridoo. During his performances, the area yoga teacher walks around the room with one of his long Australian wind instruments, sometimes playfully intoning notes close to the Goodwill clients' ears. This often elicits a smile or a look of wonder.
       “The sound and vibration help with healing,” said Skrivan, who began volunteering performance time after finding out about the center through a friend who is an employee. “Some of them have bodies that are contorted. You can see them straighten out.”
       Goodwill's Westside Recreation and Leisure Center, one of two it has with a Snoezelen in Colorado Springs, is located in part of a converted, one-time grocery store at Chestnut Street and Colorado Avenue. Clients' families use the center's day program by choice, with the costs covered through their government disability assistance.
       According to Peggy Morrison, the center's program manager, Snoezelen fills a variety of her clients' inner needs. Many of them use it to feel tranquil or to rest after lunch, while others once in a while might go there as a kind of “time-out” to get over being angry.
       Then there's one individual, whose disability prevents any real interchange with other people. During his 4 ½ hours at the center every day, he'll routinely roll his wheelchair from one station to another, occasionally voicing sounds to announce his pleasure. “It makes him so calm and quiet,” Morrison pointed out. “It's all his parents want for him.”
       According to a Goodwill document, the “Snoezelen” concept was developed in Holland in the late 1970s by Dutch therapists Ad Verheul and Jann Hulsegge while working at a center for people with intellectual disabilities. One of the goals is a “failure-free environment in which the mind can wander and the body can relax,” the document states.
       Main items in the room are the visually appealing “bubble tubes,” “fiber optic light spray” and “bubble mirror” (with reflection changing the shape and size as a person moves in front of it), a giant eight-tone drum that provides deep vibrations, a sound and light unit that provides light/color responses, a gentle chair swing, a ball pool (with glowing balls that change color), and beanbag chairs.
       In addition, the room uses “aromatherapy” - scents that evoke different, favorable sensations, according to Morrison.
       Skrivan said the didgeridoo was created by Aborigines and requires a special “circular breathing” technique to play, he explained. Asked why he gives up his time for the center's clients, Skrivan gave no oral reply, but reached toward his heart and made a motion to indicate tearing it out.

Westside Pioneer article