A sensory gym is a place that can be used by children who struggle with over-stimulation or under-stimulation. Often, these children have been diagnosed with autism or a similar disability. However, even children with motor skill impairments, mental disabilities, and ADD can benefit from these places. Many sensory gyms are located in therapy offices where trained therapists can work with children one-on-one to help them develop appropriate responses to new stimuli. Hospitals and many schools have designed sensory gyms in the past decade. Other gyms are located in community centers that have dedicated spaces for special needs children. In fact, nearly any parent can create an inexpensive sensory area in their own homes even if they do not have an entire room to dedicate to it.
A sensory gym is a safe place that incorporates new experiences for children of all ages. Smaller gyms may focus on items with different colors, shapes, and textures, such as pillows, sand, streamers, and fans. However, larger gyms may have safe play equipment that is larger, such as rock climbing walls and ball pits. While none of these places is designed primarily for physical activity, they can be great places for children to get rid of excessive energy. Sensory gyms are designed foremost for helping special needs children develop confidence in new situations, learn vital social skills and become used to new sensations. In addition, these gyms have been found to improve gross and fine motor skills, promote healthy self-esteem, improve communication and help children live independently.
Sensory gyms are necessary because they provide new experiences without allowing the child to feel threatened. The child can move at his or her own pace, allowing children who are over-stimulated to slow down and allowing children who are under-stimulated to experience new sights, sounds, and feelings. These gyms are quite safe and have padded floors and safe, age-appropriate equipment, giving children who love to spin, run into things and jump off furniture safety. In addition, most gyms are monitored by therapists or other workers who are trained in working with special needs children.