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The Snoezelen consists or sensory lighting, music and other tools, all customizable. TARYN BRANDELL

For anyone diagnosed with autism, ADHD, anxiety and other mental health issues, the ECHO Society has a room just for you.

Whitecourt’s ECHO Society is looking for community members to join in their “Snoezelen Club” and is inviting residents to participate in their Snoezelen open house free of charge on May 2.

The word Snoezelen comes from the Dutch words explore/sniff around and doze and provides a therapeutic environment for those who need relief from a day filled with stress.

“When so much heat and light is being put on mental health, this is a perfect opportunity to say this is a community room … you do not need to be a client of ECHO’s to use it,” said Louise Meier, executive director for the ECHO Society. “Come be part of the Snoezelen club.”

The ECHO Society is looking to expand the room with additional specialized materials including sensory lighting and additional beanbags and seating. The room costs upwards of $70,000 to develop and maintain.

“It’s all about the senses,” said Meier “Touch, sensory, seeing and hearing and it’s all individualized … if you have someone who suffers from seizures, you won’t put the mirror ball on. (You might) put on some calming music, some water and waterfalls … it’s about finding a way to calm that soul.”
A specialized ball pit within the Snoezelen room helps to promote relaxation. TARYN BRANDELL

The Snoezelen has been part of the society since 2003 and according to Meier, is underutilized.

“It costs $7.50 for an hour in the room and we’re talking about doing corporate passes, sort of like a membership at the golf course,” she said. “We want people to come in and use it and not feel like there’s a stigma attached to it.”

The Snoezelen room is not just for autism, anxiety and stress, according to occupational therapist Candice Achtymichuk. She said it can be used for other therapeutic and educational purposes.

“(It’s) a multi-sensory, therapeutic environment that can help calm anxiety, stimulate its users or simply provide relaxation,” she said. “While best known as a tool for children with autism, the room can be used for seniors with dementia, patients with brain injuries, people with developmental disabilities, young children and those struggling with mental health issues.”

The ECHO Society will be hosting a Summer Soul fundraising event in partnership with Travelodge on June 22 at the Allan and Jean Miller Center.

“It’s supporting the ECHO, it’s supporting the Snoezelen room, it’s supporting the community,” said Meier.

The event will consist of cocktails, dinner, dancing and silent and live actions with guest auctioneer Gary Meyer; Oilers Alumni president.

To reserve a spot at the Snoezelen open house or purchase tickets for Summer Soul, call the ECHO society before April 26 at 780-778-2660.

Source: Snoezelen helps reduce stress and anxiety | Regina Leader-Post