Issie Senses: Maximizing the Multi-Sensory Environment as a Tool for Therapists

Dana Cappel, occupational therapist 23, June 2022

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A multi-sensory environment (MSE) consists of specially adapted sensory stimuli that dramatically impact the sense of well-being of children and adults with disabilities.  

At Beit Issie Shapiro we have coupled this unique environment with an innovative, evidence-based therapeutic methodology – Issie Senses – which turns the MSE into a powerful therapeutic and educational tool.  


girl and woman facing each other with a ssensory bubble tube between them. Both of them are touching the tube.

Issie Senses: Engagement and connection in the multi-sensory room


Key principles of Issie Senses: 

  • An adaptable sensory environment that the therapist and the client can control to create a perfect sensory experience for engagement and learning. 
  • Combination of “The Enabling Therapist” approach (based on following the client’s lead) with the calming environment and sensory-stimulating equipment. 
  • Treatment in the MSE involves a multi-disciplinary approach (including Speech, PT, OT, and emotional therapies). 
  • Sessions in the MSE are always connected to the client’s therapeutic goals with thoughtful consideration to transference beyond the room  
  • Issie Senses is suitable for people of any age and any ability 

Success Stories 

Using Issie Senses, we have seen children engage in ways and develop skills that we have not seen in other environments. Here are two case studies that highlight this point:

Case Study 1 – The Difference 15 Seconds Makes 

We had been working with M., a two-year-old girl with developmental delay, for a while and though she did not respond consistently to questions we had the feeling she understood much more than was apparent. Using Issie Senses’ Enabling Therapist approach of following her lead, we realized that she needed at least 10-15 seconds to process what was said (directions, questions, comments) before she responded. Giving her this time, we started to see her answer questions, interact with stimuli, and participate in a more significant way. We of course shared this information with the family and kindergarten staff and it changed everything for her. Understanding her needs allowed her to flourish. The slow relaxing pace of work in the MSE facilitates our understanding of her processing needs and discovery of her abilities. 


Case Study 2 – Seeing the world from a new perspective 

A., a boy with severe spastic cerebral palsy, struggles to support his body and hold his head up during the day. The calm enabling environment of the MSE, combined with the Enabling Therapist approach, allows him to experiment with self-initiated movement and while leaning forward against the bubble tube, he can lift his head on his own and see the world from a whole new perspective. The sensory stimulation of the bubbles combined with the sense of control and accomplishment that the MSE offers, allows A. to do something that he is unable to do throughout the day. Even though he is unable to reproduce these movements in other environments, his success in the MSE gives him the sense that he is nevertheless capable of moving his own body. This experience is essential for his self-esteem and self-efficacy. 

Click here to read more about Issie Senses. 

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