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Powered by community: The Snoezelen Room

A sensory haven in memory of Perkins student Brady Ellis.

A girl puts her hands on a light display window while her teacher supports her from behind.

Imagine a room with soothing music, calming lights, and cozy seating that immediately put you at ease. For students with visual impairments and complex disabilities, the newly-opened Snoezelen Room is just that: a sensory haven to recharge and reset when fatigue sets in.

The Snoezelen Room is a first-of-its kind at Perkins School for the Blind. Located on the ground floor of the Hilton Building, it’s tailor made for students in the Deafblind School, ranging in age from 3-22. The space is extra special because it celebrates the memory of student Brady Ellis.

“Brady was everybody’s friend,” said Amanda Toczylowski, one of Brady’s teachers in the Deafblind School. “He had a quality that brought you to him, and students and staff alike were drawn to him.”

The room was a collaborative effort within the Perkins community, with fundraising efforts led by his nurse, Debra Johnson.

A marathon runner stands, smiling, between two other people with their arms around each other.
112 friends, family members, and supporters donated to Debra’s marathon fundraiser, raising $20,000 in less than 30 days in Brady’s honor.

There’s something for everyone in the Snoezelen Room.

In the Snoezelen Room, there’s something for everyone: bubble tubes with flowing colors and sounds, wall-mounted panels with captivating lights, and all kinds of tactile elements to push, pull, brush, and tinker with. On the wall, a vibrant rainbow mural painted by Perkins’ Director of Admissions Amy Ferreira is an ode to Brady, where each color represents a different part of his lived experience. For students with limited mobility, a mechanical lift reaches every touch-to-interact element in the room. 

With the support of Brady’s family and the funds Debra raised, Brady’s teaching team at Perkins, including Wendy Buckley, Megan Connaughton, and Amanda Toczylowski, brainstormed how to capture and share his spirit. They collaborated with Snoezelen, a company that specializes in crafting multi-sensory environments to order a customized list of products and create a design for the room that was representative of the deafblind student community as a whole.

“We have a range of students who have different sensory needs,” said Wendy Buckley. “We tried to pick things that would attract their particular needs, whether it’s tactile, visual, or visual and auditory.” Through creative thinking and teamwork, the windowed classroom was transformed into a haven for play and relaxation.

“This room will provide a way for students of all ages to learn and play for years to come—a place for friends to learn and play together.“

Megan Connaughton, one of Brady’s teachers

Debra’s fundraiser is an undeniable representation of a community’s power to change lives. Her dual commitment to honoring Brady and bettering the lives of his peers at Perkins inspired others to take action: to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Now, generations of students will be able to celebrate Brady’s life. 

“The Snoezelen Room reflects not only the things he loved, but allows all students a way to access all of the equipment in their own, unique ways,” said Megan Connaughton. “This room will provide a way for students of all ages to learn and play for years to come—a place for friends to learn and play together.”

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