Vancouver, B.C. (May 15, 2018)—Highly reverberant rooms are irritating to most everyone, and while many people are able to withstand or filter this experience some of the time, it’s particularly challenging for those on the autism spectrum. While room noise is hard enough to manage, when it’s combined with extraneous sounds from adjacent rooms and hallways, the space can become impossible for those with sensitive sensory processing systems to use.
In its recent music therapy space construction project, the Pacific Autism Family Network (PAFN) in Vancouver, B.C., had to formulate a plan that would address all of the sensory sensitivities, including sound. PAFN owner and executive director Esther Thane (BMT, MTA, AVPT) explained, “In the music therapy space, the lighting is on dimmers to be adjustable for individual preferences. Our company colors are vibrant yet not overwhelming, with one corner of room piled up with sensory beanbags. Since the room is soundproof for recording purposes, it eliminates all auditory distraction from the hallways and neighboring service providers.”
Thane collaborated with ET Music Therapy’s founder, Sergio Cocchia, to ensure that their clients’ diverse needs were met. “We had meetings in the early blueprint stages about what sound/lighting requirements would be conducive to creating a positive therapeutic space for our clients. Since he is an owner of a recording studio, the acoustical elements were of prime concern for him as well.”
The team went beyond soundproofing and proceeded to apply professional-grade acoustic treatment to the room, installing a selection of Broadway acoustic treatment panels from Vancouver-based Primacoustic. The high-performance, fabric-covered acoustic panels feature high-density (6 pounds per square foot) glass wool for balanced absorption throughout the audio listening range. Additionally, Broadway panels are laboratory-tested for acoustic performance and Class-A/1 fire safety, making them panels safe for use in commercial, government and institutional installations.
Related: Review: Primacoustic Broadway Professional Acoustic Solutions, by Strother Bullins, Sep. 15, 2008
Acoustically treating the space serves two purposes: it attenuates the sound created in the therapy room for the comfort of the users, and it optimizes the sound in a room for recording purposes.
Thane said, “Individuals with autism benefit from acoustically treated rooms as they provide a safe environment where outside distraction is minimized. Some individuals with autism may be overstimulated or sensitive to certain noises, especially abrupt, unplanned ones. Within the safe cocoon of an acoustically treated music therapy space, an individual with diverse needs can feel safe and secure, and predict that the only sounds produced will be produced by him/her self and the others in the room. This helps with self-regulation and feelings of trust.”
The music therapy program has been a success, as shown by the formation of a Friday night rock band. “They feel at home in the space, free to create, record, and express themselves without judgment. They can create original compositions, record covers of their music preferences, and if they need to scream or pound on a drum for a cathartic release, they can do that too! Without the fear of disturbing others in the building.”
Primacoustic • www.primacoustic.com