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  • Tuesday, April 14, 2015

    I guess I started to wonder about “experience” when I worked at New York’s Willowbrook State Institution in the seventies. Geraldo Rivera, news reporter, did an undercover story exposing the terrible conditions at this facility (the largest in the nation, with over 5,000 children).

    I began working there as part of a Team to help change conditions after the Parents took the State to court. As some of you are aware this led to the de institutionalization process across the country. Working in this environment was challenging and the children here seemed “numb” to the happenings around them. Mostly they were self-stimulating or self- injurious or aggressive and their eyes were glazed over as if they never saw anything.

    As you walked by there were no responses and even if you spoke to them… nothing… As I started to work individually with them if I got up and about 18” away from their face and brought in a item or object with me, I would start to get a focus, a response and sometimes a smile, I would mirror them and make faces and we would “get into it” as they use to say. As I realized I was sharing an experience of play, I began then to think about the word, "Experience".

    See the article Here.

  • Tuesday, April 14, 2015

    Without the shared experience of the event, we cannot join in with the emotion of the memory. This is why there is compassion, sympathy and empathy

    The Enigma of Experience

    Why actively and dynamically working in a Multi-Sensory Environment with an individual and creating an essential positive experience is paramount to having success. Why you must have the “Sensory Enriched Experience”. It is the foundation of experiencing time together to engage in joy and sharing in the moment that allows the opportunity to unite and form a relationship that then can be extended. That is what the formation of the therapeutic or any relationship is; it is the basis of developing trust. The “Show” as I call it, has a protocol to follow. But unfortunately, most folks lose sight that it is all about maintaining constancy, consistency and keeping the “Show” positive (pleasurable) and novel that causes the experience to first be intense enough to want it to be repeated. I keep pondering the definition of experience and, the neuroscience; that term “experience dependent neuroplasticity”, how growth is dependent on experience… why is experience so hard to explain…why is it hard to relate it to another? I read so many neuroscience research articles that discuss “external cues”, environments” and “enrichment” of the stimuli. They draw conclusions that establish trends in having to experience the phenomena for the desired potential to happen.

    A recent science article spoke to some aspects of this process; The secret of empathy: Stress from the presence of strangers prevents empathy, in both mice and humans.*1 Refers to the playing of a video game together for 15 minutes is enough to create empathy between two strangers. However, to paraphrase their findings: empathy cannot happen in the presence of a stranger without them sharing the experience.

    So, what does this mean for us in a MSE? It means that the Trained Practitioner using mindfulness and therapeutic presence is accompanying and sharing the experience with the individual through providing the “Show”. This is now a shared pleasurable social/emotional experience. They are no longer strangers and empathy is shared. (The show is based on the individual’s needs and preferences, not the Practitioner’s sensory diet) This is why the story I tell of a 6 year old child in a Mental Health unit, who I ran one thirty minute “show” for, who could not even fully see my face. This child not only recognized me six months later, but from in a Time-Out room! He looked up with the broadest smile from ear to ear and said “The lady with the room!”. Remember now, I don’t speak or try and make eye contact during the “Show”. And only when the “Show” is over do I ask the big question: “Did you have a good time?” and “Would you like to come back?” Guess what answer I get! Often from children with Autism, their response is their first words…

    The phrase “Experience is the Best Teacher” is very accurate to anyone who has suffered pain from touching something hot or bumping into something due to lack of paying attention. Once you experience the occurrence you try not to repeat it again. On the other hand, if you took a risk and went on a hot air balloon or simply tried a new restaurant with different food and you really had a wonderful and pleasurable (time) experience, you want to go back and do it again and again and again, depending on the reward or pleasure. Isn’t this the same reason you can’t get kids to let go of something that they enjoy? You get into a tug of war (conflict) — I’m not going to go there —except to say this is why there is a protocol to the “Show”. It has a defined beginning and defined end. The motivation is gone when the “Show” is over. Even the design of the room helps set limits for the individual experience.

    You cannot relate to experience by a “cognitive” process. Experience ties “feelings/emotions” to an event, and the event is accompanied by a “sensory-motor” array of input to the brain (sights, smell, taste, sound, as well as it coming into the brain at different strengths or intensities, etc.). When combined, it creates a memory…

    This memory can be positive, negative or neutral. I like to think of memories as being on the Richter Scale. You know, the one they use for Earthquakes. Only this time, the rating can go from negative (-10) to a positive, (+10) with zero (0) being neutral. The brain has different pathways or routes depending on the positive or negative rating. If the memory has been a positive 10 on the scale, it produces awesome pleasure and we want to repeat that “feeling”, and therefore the event. On the other hand, if it is a negative 10 the memory made is awful; one that we do not want to repeat or relive. The brain path or route is different and can cause stress, anxiety, anger and a cascade of other behavioral health issues. The event or experience may have been such a traumatic one that the negative memory formed is looped and experienced over and over again, for example causing PTSD.

    I apologize for over-simplifying this, but the more folks can take this information away to help others, the better off we will all be.

    Here is one more example that “experience” is not a cognitive process: Let’s say you try and tell a story of something funny that happened to you to someone else. After your story, you look up at the other person’s confused facial expression and you say “Oh, I guess you had to be there”. The person listening to you can’t get it; they were not there and didn’t feel the emotions and sensations of the event. It was a social experience not shared by the two of you. Ever have to watch someone else’s vacation pictures? How does it feel? I rest my case! So go out and make memories; all you need is a little time…

    Trust...
    “We're never so vulnerable than when we trust someone - but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.”

    ― Walter Anderson
    *1 McGill University. “The secret of empathy: Stress from the presence of strangers prevents empathy, in both mice and humans.” Science Daily, 15 January 2015 www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150115122005.htm.

    ©LMessbauer started 10/14 finished 4/15

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    Wise Channel has just recently published a fantastic piece featuring Linda's work on the Golisano Children's Hospital in Syracuse, New York. Linda’s Design work and MSE concept at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital shows the power of MSE and offers insight into how we perceive our world.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    Linda has been very busy over the last number of months. She is delighted to say her MSE is under construction and a newly designed room with improvements is on its way.

    Recently Linda’s Design work and MSE concept at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse has been featured on Euronews in a segment on the show Learning World. You can see the segment on YOUTUBE by clicking this link.

    Linda will be co-presenting at the AOTA conference in Nashville, Tenn. with Doctor Janice Ryan on Multi-Sensory Benefits for those with Dementia, including Alzheimer's.

    Over the last year she completed Multi-sensory room Designs and training for two group homes in Brooklyn for H.A.S.C, a Day Program for Adults with Autism in Bergen County United Way in NJ, Phoenix Center, Inc., a School for children with Autism in NJ which received a Grant form Seton Hall University for their room. Linda just finished a project and training at Augustana Care Center for an Alzheimer’s program in MN. She has had projects in MI, TENN., OH, VA and CA and of course New York.

    The International World Health Organization has asked permission to use Linda’s room Design Pictures for their Quality Rights: Standards and Quality in Mental Health Care, materials. They are highlighting the use of “Comfort Rooms” to reduce seclusion and restraints. Linda worked with Barbara Vartanian, MS, LMHC, starting in 2006 to develop the first Multi-Sensory Room /Snoezelen in a State of New York facility for use with Inpatient Children ages 5 to 17 in Binghamton for Mental Health. Below is a copy of the results; You can see by the graph that the episodes of restraint went down as the use of the MSE went up, until May when the Doctor at the time, made going into the room contingent on good behavior…once Linda paid a visit and convinced the Doctor this was a “proactive” approach; the Sensory Room usage went up and restraint use went down again, until the unit went restraint free in March of 2008.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    Have You Ever Wondered Why Bubble Tubes or Columns are So Fascinating? Why can we sit and watch and listen to them for hours and get lost in the joy?

    I believe I have one possible answer….It starts in our development…Think about it, we start out developing in a womb filled with fluid…to protect us…we venture forth and start to grow…at some point in time we accidently produce “raspberries” the act of forming those little bubbles on our lips and some adult (usually a significant one) responds to this with a mimic of the “raspberries” right back at you and it’s a game of imitation… the beginning of some more “bonding, play, communication, socialization and control…” Most of the time, to this point in development with the exception of “smiles” our world has been "manipulated” by us infants through “crying” and relying on Mom to understand what the “cry” meant; sadly not necessarily a joyous experience though it usually got results. …But, controlling your environment or rather people through the act of “raspberry bubble blowing” had a Whole different FEELING…If you watch the infant…Raspberries and Smiles and often laughs go hand in hand…the experience was Fun… and the infant tries hard and fast to “learn” to repeat this action…getting more and more reward…which I want to point out is a fun dynamic experience shared between the adult and infant…

    We continue to experience the fun assigned to bubbles, in a glorious bubble bath in the bathtub, splashing water and making bubbles as we grow…to the joyful experience when an adult uses a wand and makes magic happen with bubbles floating through the air in iridescent colors…or remember when you first learned how to use a straw and blew into it; in your chocolate milk, oh the fun of the sound and bubbles…Can you remember how hard you worked to blow that first bubble when you got a piece of Bubble Gum…it had to get bigger and bigger until it busted…

    Our love of bubbles expanded as we grew and experienced nature and watched the bubbles form on the beach as the ocean waves washed on and off shore or we sat or played by a babbling brook or creek with friends or significant others…

    I guess what I am getting at, is most of our experience with “bubbles” has been positive… Leaving us with happy feelings and fun memories…it is why these unique and large bubble columns prove to be essential for a Multi-Sensory Room for all ages…

    Addendum: The above is a social-emotional explanation of why we may like Bubble Tubes but, it is not the only one. Here briefly are three more:

    1. The very size motivates our curiosity… they are bigger than life as they say; are three dimensional and think of the times you visited places or things just to experience the magnificent size…like the Grand Canyon or the Empire State Building…
    2. Another maybe the “hypnotic effect” they have…like watching flames in a fireplace…
    3. And one last one for now, the very fact they are “novel” and are not common in our daily environment…

    Note: In a Multi-Sensory Environment that does have a vibro-acoustic ball pool pit, (which incidentally, if the clear balls are used, looks like a giant bubble bath)it is the preferred piece of equipment for kids.

    The preferred piece of sensory room equipment for all ages is the bubble tube*…
    *Data from Sensory Response Forms

    ©LMessbauer 11/14

  • Friday, February 20, 2015

    Linda appears in an article on the DisabilityScoop website, talking about how Multi Sensory environments are gaining ground:

    Linda Messbauer, an occupational therapist from New York City who designed and opened the first sensory room in the nation in 1992, said the benefits of these rooms are backed up by good scientific trends and research.

    “Kids are influenced by their environment, and they want to control as much of it as they can. The room helps kids learn to control their behavior through understanding and using their sensory diet,” Messbauer said. “You dim the lights, bringing about darkness, and it tells the child’s nervous system that it should start to produce melatonin and this starts the calming process.

    What is happening is causing more areas of the brain to be functional and to be pulled into the process, causing a change, usually bringing about more focus and attention. These rooms help them learn how to control themselves, assuming the therapist knows how to use it properly.”

    Read the full article Here.

  • Monday, November 17, 2014

    Linda has recently appeared in an article on NorthJersey.com, where she talks about a Multi-Sensory Environment in the Phoenix Center, a private school in Nutley. The room was designed to stimulate neglected physiology in disabled students.

    An Excerpt from the article:

    Linda Messbauer, an occupational therapist from Queens who designed and opened the first sensory room in the nation in 1992, said the benefits of these rooms are backed up by good scientific trends and research.

    “Kids are influenced by their environment, and they want to control as much of it as they can. The room helps kids learn to control their behavior through understanding and using their sensory diet,” Messbauer said. “You dim the lights, bringing about darkness, and it tells the child’s nervous system that it should start to produce melatonin and this starts the calming process.

    What is happening is causing more areas of the brain to be functional and to be pulled into the process, causing a change, usually bringing about more focus and attention. These rooms help them learn how to control themselves, assuming the therapist knows how to use it properly.”

    Read the full article here.

  • Sunday, October 12, 2014

    Dr. Marina Masic and Linda Messbauer spent time together in NY in an MSE connecting Art and Science. Linda is very impressed with this interview and hopes our AAMSE members and readers will have a "look see." It is both beautiful and, as Linda calls it, "brain-wise functional"....

    http://www.coolhunting.com/culture/aesthetics-and-therapeutics-lab.php

  • Monday, May 05, 2014

    Dr. Marina Masic, an art therapist, first emailed in 2011 with an interest in combining Art and Sensory, and a dialog opened between them.

    Marina shared her dream of opening a Sensory Spa for Wellness, and so she visited Linda’s MSE and learned much about the design aspects in relation to the human’s functioning brain. Marina gained much insight into what sensations do for changing our arousal, focus, perspective and eventually our behavior. She clearly understands how we can become more intimately involved with the relaxation process and how art and design will influence our very being

    I congratulate Marina and her colleagues on their award and hope you will watch their video and help sponsor them!

    You can view the full article and Video here, and make a donation.

  • Thursday, October 31, 2013

    An article posted on the Livingston County News of Geneseo NY, about the debut of the new MSE for Wayland-Cohocton Central School. The article mentions Linda Messbauer, who served as chief consultant and designer of the Multi-Sensory Environment.

    A brief excerpt:

    "A significant step came when the Hughes’ learned about Linda Messbauer, a New York City designer of MSE rooms. Messbauer is on the autism spectrum herself and is one of the founders of the American Association of Multi-Sensory Environment and the developer of the first MSE in the United States in 1992. Jacqueline Hughes’s sister, Jennifer Sullivan, CEO at St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell, contacted Messbauer and a group from the task force met with her in New York City. The Way-Co group worked with Messbauer to design their MSE room. She provided training to Way-Co staff on how the MSE equipment works. Messbauer attended the ribbon cutting at the school."

    For the full article: please Click Here.

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