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Sensory room to provide respite for students with anxiety

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Sensory room to provide respite for students with anxiety

Nathalie Heinz (L) and Janine Hunter (R)

A room fitted out with objects that provide a range of sensory experiences will be open to the public this week, thanks to two third-year students of Otago Polytechnic’s Bachelor of Occupational Therapy.

The sensory room was devised by the students as a way of mitigating the effects of anxiety – a condition that research shows is one of the more common medical diagnoses made in tertiary students.

“Anxiety can be managed through sensory modulation strategies,” explains Janine Hunter, one of the students involved. “Sensory modulation is about making sense of the world by processing and responding to environmental stimuli using all seven senses – touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste, balance and spacial awareness.”

Her collaborator, Nathalie Heinz, says high anxiety can have major effects on an individual. “High anxiety levels can impair someone’s ability to regulate their senses, which can in turn result in difficulties engaging in occupations or activities as students.”

The sensory room will be in the Studio 56 building located in the Polytechnic carpark on Harbour Terrace. It will be open to the public from Wednesday 23 August to Friday 25 August from 9.00am-3.00pm. Users of the space will be asked to provide feedback on Nathalie and Janine’s proposal for a permanent sensory space for students at Otago Polytechnic.

“We believe this would help students with anxiety to self-modulate, allowing them to better engage with their learning and the student community,” Nathalie says.


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