The Center - Sensory Program
Day-habilitation or, community integration activities, are operated out of “The Center” (formally known as the Mainstream Employment and Learning Center) in Ames. The Center offers various day habilitation programming, each with a different focus and serving a specific need. The sensory program (formerly known as ‘Snoezelen’) is a unique program that began in June of 2011. The term ‘Snoezelen’, which was developed in the Netherlands in the 1970’s is a contraction of the Dutch verbs “snuffelen” (to seek and explore) and “doezelen” (to relax). The intent was that the senses could be stimulated through exploration and discovery, creating a multi-sensory environment designed to reduce agitation and anxiety, while engaging the user, stimulating reactions, and encouraging interaction or communication.
Andrew Gomez, Team Leader at Center, has worked hard with Center staff to develop the program from its original inception. Those participating in the sensory program may have higher medical needs, often fall on the autism spectrum, or require an environment where higher supports are needed through lower ratios. Members attending the sensory program explore their space through the use of lighting effects, bubble tubes, sounds or music, scents, or textures. It was determined early-on that the most expensive equipment may not always be the most valued. Additionally, members achieved greater success in the program when it was continually evolving and adapting to the ever-changing needs. New activities and opportunities are continually integrated, ranging from utilization of salt lamps to different kinds of music or sound.
The sensory program’s hours range from 8:00a to 12:30p or 9:00 to 1:30p, Monday through Friday. Three Activity Coordinators work in this program on a rotating basis. Each of the programs offered at Center are led by Program Director Amber Vauhn-Schaefer.