The concept of the multi sensory garden evolved when 8 years ago the multi sensory room in St. Anthony’s Unit was completed. Following consultation with staff, service users and members of the Ladies Committee, it was agreed that a multi sensory garden should be the next venture. The multi sensory concept embraces the 5 senses:
In October 2006 it became possible for us to achieve our dream of a multi sensory garden through a grant application from the dormant accounts. The application we were eligible to apply for was through a project to support people with in intellectual disability who presented with behaviours that challenge. In completing this application we identified a number of people whom we felt would benefit from a project such as this. Service users were continually involved in the planning process of the project.
Following a process, A&J Landscapes were the company selected to complete the works. The primary reason for this selection was that they successfully completed the design within budget and we were most impressed by their design, utilisation of space and we felt that they successfully embraced the multi sensory concept. The company undertook research into multi sensory gardens and again we felt this was evident in the design of the garden.
The sense of touch is utilised by the use of a variety of materials in the structure of the garden e.g. sandstone, paving and cobbling. The sense of smell will be awakened by the variety of shrubs and herbs which have been planted. The sense of sound is stimulated through the varied water features, wind chimes and different surfaces to walk on and hopefully the garden will attract birds.
The opportunity to withdraw from stimulus may be achieved in the Quiet Area where stimulus is reduced and the planted bamboo acts as a therapeutic calmer. The person can have time away in privacy and safety, whilst also having whatever necessary supervision.
The sense of taste can be stirred, as there is a free planting area which allows service users to plant their own fruit, vegetables and herbs. They can choose what can be grown and then have the responsibility for nurturing them. When the crops are successfully harvested they may be used in a cookery activity.
Perhaps the highlight of the garden is the mosaic wall at the rear of the garden. A number of the service users were involved in the completion of this feature, in that people placed their handprints onto the wet cement with their hands representing the leaves on the tree. Everyone involved enjoyed participating in this section and it is good to know that their handprints will be here as long as the wall is standing.