Why Should a Multi-Sensory Environment be White in Color?

Linda Messbauer

An MSE room should be painted a white color because:

1. Empowerment: Painted white the room can represent a canvas ready to be painted on. The user gets to choosethe colors of the equipment he/she prefers to turn on against a neutral background. This helps to empower the person.

2. Contrast: The practitioner uses the white areas as a screen to project images onto; the white provides good contrast. Remember white is the absence of color and black is all colors in light.

3. Subtlety: When the image from the projector is turned on it will become a focal point, dominant element that draws the eye and unconscious awareness of change if it is subtle. The trained practitioner may want to use this as a technique to communicate to the user’s body/brain to increase awareness. This possible technique to increase unconscious awareness is not possible without good contrast or a white room.

4. Focus: If the change in color of a projected image is intense against a white background it can draw the person’s conscious awareness or attention to the stimulus/equipment or image. Again this is a technique that requires a white surface.

5. Seamlessness: Using various projected images in motion (i.e. panoramic rotator) against a white background allows for maximizing the smooth flow of uninterrupted patterns of movement for the user. It is far more pleasant than patterns of interrupted, jagged and jarring movement that is unsettling to the body. Often setting off a bad vestibular reaction not to mention how it can unsettle the stomach. Use of the panoramic rotator allows the trained practitioner to increase stimulation to the visual processing system and, as the user turns their head and neck to follow it around, to stimulate the vestibular system.

6. Relaxation: A white room is particularly helpful when changing a person’s general arousal for relaxation. It is not over-stimulating.*

7. Symbolism: White as a color symbolizes, purity, calm, order and softness, etc…

a. Numbers 3, 4, and 5 above are used deliberately by a trained practitioner to help change brain arousal.
b. The paint should be flat, semi-gloss but not glossy or too bright as to cause undesired glare. Whites with a hint of pink or blue or off-white will work well.
*Remember not all the equipment in the whole room needs to be turned on; why mimic the natural
environment of chaos? As practitioners who wish to use the room for treatment we want to control the environment to enable a dynamic process to occur for the user to access successfully for function. Over-stimulating environments are confusing and disorganizing. This environment when used for treatment requires being designed to facilitate function according to how the body/brain function based on the most current science and Best Practices.