JOHOR BAHRU, September 2019 – Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder which usually begins during childhood. ASD is a condition where it affects how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns. The diagnosis for ASD can be detected at any age. However, the symptoms usually appear in the first two years. There is no cure for ASD, and no medication is available to treat the condition. Instead, minimizing the symptoms and improving the condition of children with ASD can be achieved with suitable therapy. Several types of therapy can be used to minimize the symptoms of ASD, which includes music therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, sensory integration therapy and many more. Another type of therapy which has been used for children with ASD is the multi-sensory room. One of the existing products available in the market is known as the Snoezelen multi-sensory environment. It is an international product which can help to reduce agitation and anxiety and can be used as sensory stimulation tools that provide various activities and tools that can help users use their senses to explore the environment. However, the cost to create the environment is expensive and could cost about RM500,000.
The Multi-sensory Smart Room (MSSR) in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) is the first multi-sensory room in Malaysia that operates with an automated monitoring system using Internet of Things (IoT) technology. It is designed as an alternative to the Snoezelen Multi-Sensory Room. MSSR is a project initiated by Ts. Dr. Dayana Farzeeha Ali and Dr. Muhammad Khair Noordin from the School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, UTM.
Dr. Muhammad Khair Noordin, the co-partner of the MSSR project team said that “the automated monitoring system allows us to monitor all the specific details related to the usage of the room such as the frequency used and the most frequently used elements by the patients. We also have full control of all aspects such as the lamp, bubble tubes, fibre optics, sound, etc using the automated monitoring system.”
The users get an unrestrained non-threatening space where they can explore at their own leisure. This freedom allows their teacher, therapist, or caregiver see what calms them, rouses them and what they like and vice versa.
Ts. Dr. Dayana Farzeeha Ali, the project leader of MSSR said that “MSSR is a product that utilizes a simple yet effective design with the use of local expertise to meet the local needs.” She further said that the team has reinvented the product to ensure that it is affordable for any Malaysian organizations as well as the public to own or use it.”
Starting from August 2019, MSSR is open to the public to be used with a minimal charge of as low as RM30 per entry. This effort was initiated to encourage parents to bring their children to undergo the therapy, as well as to allow children to enjoy the sensory learning experience to the fullest. On 28 August 2019, a group of students and teachers from Sekolah Menengah Kangkar Pulai 2 visited the MSSR located at the Little Genius Therapy and Learning Centre, UTM. Most of the students who came were diagnosed with ASD, ADHD, and Cerebral Palsy. During their visit, the students and teachers are given the chance to experience the activities in MSSR. The feedback gained from the students was positive as they thoroughly enjoyed the MSSR activities and experience gained. Parents, teachers, or any interested individuals can now make an appointment to use the MSSR and participate in the activities with the children in a condusive and therapeutic environment.
Written by Dayana Farzeeha Ali and Marlissa Omar