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The Efficacy of the "Snoezelen" in the management of children with mental retardation who exhibit maladaptive behaviors

Dr. Michele Shapiro - Former head of the Snoezelen Field, Beit Issie Shapiro
Prof. Shula Parush - School of Occupational Therapy, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Prof. Manfred Green - School of Public Health, University of Haifa
Dr. Dana Roth - Head of the Research and Evaluation Dept., Beit Issie Shapiro


Michele Shapiro, Shula Parush, Manfred Green, Dana Roth (1997). The Efficacy of the “Snoezelen“ in the management of children who exhibit maladaptive behaviors. The British Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 63(2), July 1997.  P.25-40


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The British Journal of Development Disabilities on 02 Feb 2014, available online:


About the article

Findings indicate that the Snoezelen has a positive short–term effect on children with mental retardation. This can be seen by the reduction of maladaptive behaviors and the increase in adaptive behaviors that were seen in the Snoezelen during treatment as opposed to the playroom. This is also evident from the changes seen in the heart rate. During Snoezelen treatment the heart rate of the children was balanced: passive children showed increased heart rate while hyperactive children showed reduced heart rate. This equilibrium was not seen in the playroom.    

The study is consistent with previous observations. Researchers in the field of mental retardation are accustomed to viewing maladaptive behaviors as behaviorally driven. Ayres suggested that these behaviors are sensory driven. A major assumption underlying this study was that the Snoezelen, being an adapted sensory environment, modified incoming sensory stimuli and possibly had some kind of impact on the nervous system. Many different kinds of maladapted behaviors that were noted in the playroom, like: hand flapping or head banging, were not seen in the Snoezelen treatment.

Heart rate is one of the most common physiological measures of stress. Literature indicates the paradoxical or regulatory effect of certain stimuli. It is suggested that rocking for example can provide an increased level of stimulation for those individuals unable to process a sufficient amount of environmental stimuli or it can provide a general relaxing effect blocking out an over stimulating environment. Perhaps this explanation can be used for the increase and decrease seen in the children's heart rate in the Snoezelen. 

The findings of the present research have found that the Snoezelen is an effective therapeutic tool during treatment. It may also have implications for other populations who feel stress, like: autism, dementia and others.     


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Professional ArticlesA group of toddlers in Snoezelen
Professional ArticlesOn Emotional Therapy for Children with Intellectual Disabilities
  • Disabilities:

    Intellectual Developmental Disability

  • Topics:

    Multi-Sensory Environments
    Therapeutic Methods

  • Keywords:


  • Audience:

    General public, Professionals

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