For ISNA a particularly special year has just begun as we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary.
From the 10th to the 12th of October 2002 the very first international Snoezelen congress "Snoezelen – many countries, many concepts", took place at the Humboldt University in Berlin, and was attended by representatives from Austria, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and of course Germany.
I had first heard of Snoezelen about 20 years prior to the first symposium, in connection with my work in the area of perception training and the creation of Sensory gardens and got in touch with Ad Verheul in the Netherlands. In 2001 we decided to search for likeminded people all over the world, who were already familiar with Snoezelen and practiced it. Finally we were able to find a further 10 countries, who were familiar with the concept to an extent. During that first congress in Berlin our organisation was given its name, ISNA – International Snoezelen Association.
Prior to conception of Snoezelen rooms in the Netherlands, created by a committed team led by Ad Verheul and Jan Hulsegge, literature provided descriptions of "multisensory environments". In their early papers published in the "American journal of mental deficiency" (1966/67) Cleland and Clark spoke of so-called a "sensory cafeteria" and that for a reason:
On entering a Snoezelen, the first thing one notices, are the many light effects. I remember the few Snoezelen room from the eighties, where light effects usually came from the advertising materials provided by the companies who had fitted out the room. The viewer sat in front of a screen and was bombarded with rapidly blinking and flashing lights and on top of randomly selected music was played in the background.
To the outside observer it must have been a frightening experience: "How on earth could we possibly send a person in need of rest into that chaos, how should be able to relax or concentrate on individual stimuli when faced with the disorder and amultitude of stimuli?" In the early days (and unfortunately still to this day) not much consideration was given to the wealth of stimuli a client might be faced with. Because of that many people – mainly from therapeutic and scientific background – rejected the unstructured and uncontrolled aspects of Snoezelen. The risk of stimulus overload in a Snoezelen rooms is immense. Categorically optical, audible and tactile equipment need to be selected and applied based on the needs and impairments (disabilities/illnesses) of the respective client to avoid overburdening the client. We insisted on offering qualified training courses which was supported by many colleagues from Germany and from abroad.
In this regard a lot has changed over the last 15 years, particularly in Germany. Here Snoezelen was offered as "free Snoezelen" and "guided Snoezelen", that means it was developed further as a special intervention to be applied in support programmes and therapy as well as relaxation method. We started with the education of students at colleges and universities and the first Snoezelen room at a university – as far as I know – to plan and trial new concepts as well as carry out intense research into the Snoezelen intervention. Many dissertations and scientific research papers written during those years can be found on the reading list of our website.
In many research reports about the efficiency of Snoezelen students observed school children of different ages and with various degrees of impairments intensively over a period of 10 to 12 Snoezelen sessions, recorded their findings and evaluated the results. Observation forms and questionnaires were used. The questionnaire about wellbeing was implemented with the help of ISNA colleagues not just in Germany but also in Canada, Finland and Sweden (cf. "Snoezelen – application fields in practice", p.79-102). Further important results for the praxis were provided by the pedagogue and composer Martin Buntrock in his dissertation about "the effects of specific relaxation music in the Snoezelen room" (2010), substantiating the efficiency of relaxation music. To record essential biometric data he worked closely together with my colleague Prof. Dr. Beate Meffert (also a lecturer at many of ISNA-congresses) and her students from the Institute for signal processing and pattern recognition, part of the Humboldt University Berlin.
There is a large interest in Snoezelen seminars amongst students and colleagues from the educational and therapeutic field. So it became to train qualified Snoezelen specialists for the work in a Snoezelen room. The additional qualification spans over 200 hours – including home study, placement and exams. There are 96 hours of theory and praxis, divided into 4 interlinked modules of 24 hours each. The Basic Modules I and II form the basis for the course, their content is mandatory in all countries. The Practical Modules III and IV can be selected from a catalogue and according to the preferences of the participants. Obviously some culture-specific differences in content may be observed. (cf. website here...). Overall approximately 250 people - also from North-Korea, Japan, Republik Romania, Czech and Polen have obtained the "Internationally recognised additional Snoezelen qualification " so far. Unfortunately we observe too often that directors of institutions do not recognise the need for specific qualifications to practice Snoezelen in the specifically designed rooms. But without a qualification it will be very difficult to successfully carry out therapies and support programs. Even just trying to achieve wellbeing, rest and relaxation in rooms that aren't professionally installed and without adequately trained staff, can easily become a hit and miss scenario and have a rather negative effect on the clientele.
We are aware that besides offering seminars at central training centres (look: Events) there is a need for offering more in-house events, held directly at the institutions that have already installed or are planning to install a Snoezelen room. It is our aim for this year to respond to enquiries and to extend our training services. It is also part of our work to offer advice and guidance to our members on the installation of Snoezelen rooms and designing concepts.
The anniversary congress of the International Snoezelen Association (ISNA) took place from the 19th to the 21st of October 2012 in Maria Bildhausen, Germany. The theme summarizes my above mentioned thoughts.
"10 years ISNA – looking back – preparing for the future". This year in 2016 our 14th International congress will take place from October 7th - 9th in Basel/Swizerland.
The program will be available on the website »here... and will provide plenty of suggestions. The registration form is available in March »here... .We will also send the program to you via post. Directions can be found on the website under "Ankündigung"/"Announcements". We hope, the program sparks your interest and the event will provide an opportunity for networking with a wide range of people and to share experiences with likeminded colleagues and friends.