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Developmentally disabled adults reaping rewards from renovated 'sensory room'

Gaston Gazette - 1/24/2019

Jan. 24--For adults with developmental disabilities, some of the most rewarding interactions are those in which they have a chance to develop their senses.

ComServ in Gastonia, also known as Creative Opportunities, is focused on providing those types of experiences for the men and women it serves. And the organization used a recent donation to do that, by making a major upgrade to what's known as its Sensory Room.

ComServ offers a day program that aims to maximize the potential for achievement and overall life experiences for people with varying levels of cognitive disabilities, providing them with work opportunities and more. Many of ComServ's clients live in area group homes and come to the center on Delta Drive on weekdays.

The center's previous Sensory Room was a single space with some lights around the windows, rocking chairs and other things that provided tactile stimulation. But it wasn't particularly elaborate, said ComServ Director Terry Goble.

That's where M2M Charlotte, an area church and worship community, stepped in. Goble is a member of the church, which has resulted in officials there being familiar with ComServ's mission. It prompted another M2M member to donate several used computers a couple of years, which led to the creation of a computer lab at Creative Opportunities.

For the Sensory Room renovation, M2M contributed $1,500 that was stretched as far as possible. First, a divider was installed to make two separate spaces, so that half the room can be used as a place for clients to decompress.

"One half is for relaxation, if an individual has a behavioral issue or just needs to calm down," Goble said.

The other half has become the primary Sensory Room. A number of things have been added, including a laser light feature, aromas designed to trigger the sense of smell, a door with knobs and latches to play with, and a fiber optic light device.

"There's a big bean bag chair, benches with sequin pillows they can run their hands across, and a wall that bubbles water and changes colors," said Goble. "It stimulates the senses as far as sight and sound, and involves a lot of tactile things they can touch."

Using visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory stimulated activities have been proven to stimulate and activate the sensory systems of developmentally disabled adults, which enhances their lives.

Seeing the reactions on the faces of its clients as a result of that renovation is bringing about some good vibes these days, Goble said.

"It's pretty awesome," he said.

You can reach Michael Barrett at 704-869-1826 or on Twitter @GazetteMike.

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