Adelphi University opens sensory room

Image 1 of 6

Adelphi University in Garden City, Long Island, celebrated the debut an innovative sensory room Monday. The room is the first of its kind on any college or university campus.

The room is open to anyone in the campus community but the students in the Bridges to Adelphi program—those on the autism spectrum and with sensory issues—will benefit most. Mitch Nagler, the program's director, predicted that the room will be widely used and that many students will benefit.

Sean Culkin is an alumnus of the program, which provides support to students with ASDs. He said that building a sensory room demonstrates that the university "goes the extra mile to provide students the facilities that they need to be able to succeed."

The new space was created by Kulture City, an Alabama-based organization, as part of its sensory initiative. Dr. Michele Kong, the co-founder and chief medical officer, said that each part of the room—from the padded floors to the cocoon-like swing—was designed in thinking about what the sensory challenge might be.

"A lot of it is based on experiences that we've had in dealing or working with individuals with sensory sensitivities and figuring out what works and what doesn't work and refining that process," Kong said.

"It's an extremely calming room—the colors aren't too intense and there's a bubble wall… water with bubbles going through it very slow," Culkin said. "The lights are always kept dim. It's basically meant to relax students."

Culkin describes being on the spectrum as "having a storm going on in your head." He said the room will be a difference-maker.

"When you're able to get a student, who's panicking, on the autism spectrum to calm down and view their problems in order, you can show them how easy it is to get through what they thought was impossible," Culkin said.

An anonymous donation to Kulture City covered most all the cost of the room.

Beyond the benefit that the sensory room will provide in calming down students, both the university and Kulture City say the project is about meeting students where they are to help them reach their goals. They hope the room sends this message of inclusion.