Smile Sensory Room

Drawing on international experience and research, the Smile Sensory Room project looked at the benefits of developing multi-sensory environments (MSE) and culminated in the establishment of a community-housed Sensory Room at Horsley Community Centre in the Illawarra. This project fosters the involvement of people with disabilities, their carers, families and disability services to assist in the development and design of the space to best meet the needs of the whole community.

Sensory room

A MSE provides a safe, non-threatening environment for people with cognitive, behavioural and physical impairments to engage in a range of sensory experiences. The experiences provided by a MSE can both calm and stimulate the primary senses using sensory-based materials such as fibre optics sprays, bubble tubes, music, colour, lighting and aroma.



Based on CareWays' own community research, a lack of generally accessible supports for people living with disabilities was identified. CareWays pursued the idea of community-based supports and decided that the development of the multi-sensory environment (MSE) at Horsley Community centre would help meet these needs.

There are currently no community-based MSEs available to the community in the Illawarra or as far as we know, in Australia. As MSEs are typically found in institutional settings, families and carers are not generally able to access these spaces. Developing a MSE in a community centre allows the room to be enjoyed by all members of our community at a time that suits them, with family and carers who can support them, to enjoy this leisure time together. The Horsley MSE provides an opportunity for self‐directed experiences and shared family experiences. The SMILE team is investigating best practice design and development of MSEs. Further investigations into the use of the MSE are now underway.

The CareWays Community Sensory Room officially opened on July 1, 2017. The SMILE team have also collaborated on a UOW Community Engagement Grant to establish a Sensory Room website that provides guidance to both individuals and organisations who want to create a multi-sensory space for their home or community.

The Team

Rose Dixon is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education in the Faculty of Social Sciences 
Dr Sim Lau is a Senior lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences
Dr Andrea Garner is in the School of Education in the Faculty of Social Sciences  
Dr Pippa Burns is a lecturer in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health
Allison Cameron is a PhD student in the School of Education in the Faculty of Social Sciences
Michael Szafraniec is the Operations Manager at CareWays Community
Carly Pascoe is the Community Development officer at CareWays Community 


This project is working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 10, Reduced Inequalities   Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals.