In the white Snoezelen room, a sensory group was held for toddlers aged 12 – 18 months attending the Pashoshim nursery at the Aaron De Lowe Early Intervention Center. The group was led by an occupational therapist and a speech therapist, as well as three other members of the kindergarten staff. The group took place once a week for 45 minutes. The group of toddlers got to know their bodies through different experiences, including touch, feeling, movement, and making sounds, and learned to develop responses appropriate to different sensory and movement stimuli.
The objectives of the group
The group’s objectives included pleasure and interest in shared activities with other toddlers, establishing basic communication skills (shared attention, the ability to express feelings, expectation, reciprocity and taking turns), nurturing the ability to learn (the ability to observe and imitate), processing auditory information (following simple instructions and understanding simple questions), and the use of a basic vocabulary. In addition, the group provided an opportunity to encourage communication initiatives (use of looks, facial expression, voice, touch, gesture), motor initiatives (changing position, extending a hand, transitions, mobility), and investigative initiatives (play and sensation – touch, lick, grasp, operate).
The structure of the group
The structure of the group was permanent, and within the structure the activities were chosen in context, and changed according to the abilities and development of the children in the process.
The contribution of the activity to the toddlers
Being in the Snoezelen room made it possible to create an optimal environment for learning, encouraging expression, participation and investigation by sensory adaptation – control of stimuli, creating a distinct character and background (visual and auditory), so that the toddlers were better able to distinguish the main stimuli and activities. In addition, the children’s responses (making sounds, investigation, touch) were better “heard” and “seen” by the others.
The group was also an opportunity for the toddlers to be with other children in a regular setting, with appropriate activities, and using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), demonstrations, and adjusted poses and positions.
The group allowed the staff members to learn about each child, through observing and watching the child’s behavior and following up his or her development together. It also allowed adapted mediation, such as giving extended response time, adjustment of positions, guided use of touch, use of symbols and gestures.
Description of the process in the group from the child’s perspective
Over time, the children got to know the group and felt secure. Many forms of motor and communication initiative were seen (such as the use of gestures). The toddlers learned about their body, language, and the environment. Despite their young age, attention and response were observed between the children, turning to each other, imitation and touch. The children received considerable reinforcement for their achievements, from each other and from the staff.
For the staff, the encounter provided a regular opportunity for joint observation, developing the ability to watch, and allowing time for spontaneous interactions, interpretation, and adjusted mediation.