Helping build a sensory room for children with developmental disabilities in Serbia

UNDP Eurasia
3 min readDec 31, 2021
For Elena, 5-years old, the sensory room in her Belgrade kindergarten was instrumental to overcome many challenges and obstacles.

Early childhood is often perceived as the happiest period of a person’s life. While exploring, playing and enjoying outdoor and creative activities, children are learning life skills and developing their potential. Unfortunately, not every child has access to a friendly and suitable environment filled with joy, attention, care and love.

In Tutin, one of the poorest and least developed municipalities in Serbia, children with developmental or behavioural disorders cannot fully enjoy their childhood and develop their potential because of the lack of a suitable environment in the preschool educational system. “The main reason behind this is the lack of financial means and professional staff,“ says Mila Hadzic, a defectologist and speech therapist working at the Kindergarten “Habiba Stocevic”.

To remedy this situation, UNDP Serbia, in partnership with the Municipality of Tutin, is supporting the Kindergarten launch and equip a sensory room through a crowdfunding campaign (in Serbian).

To paraphrase garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence, a sensory room is a “childhood garden, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air is softer, and the morning is more fragrant.”

Soft walls and floor coverings, mats and pillows, water-filled tubes through which balls of different colors move, projectors, music armchairs, multi-part soft cubes, interactive whiteboards and sprays with essential oils, complete this garden.

“By stimulating the senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch, this equipment relieves the tension of children with disabilities and encourages their independence”, explains Mila Hadzic. She points out that this helps children develop fine motor skills and basic skills for everyday life such as unbuttoning and buttoning buttons, zippers and belts, tying knots, bows and cleaning clothes, shoes and space.

West et al. (2017)[1] stated that sensory room can significantly reduce distress for both children and adults, while the research done by Spyhalski from the Michigan university[2] showed that the usage of sensory room can increase the childern classroom performance by 56%.

For 45 children aged 3 to 6 in Tutin, Serbia, a sensory room is about to become a reality through a crowdfunding campaign.

Each treatment in the sensory room is individual and in accordance with the child’s abilities and the type of developmental disorder. The work is carried out by a defectologist with the support of educators and parents.

For Elena, 5-years old, the sensory room in her Belgrade kindergarten, in addition to the love and care of her parents, was instrumental to overcome many challenges and obstacles. According to Elena’s father, colorful books that make sounds are her favourite toys and have enabled her to connect touch and sound.

Now, for 45 children aged 3 to 6 in Tutin, Elena’s joy is about to become a reality through the fundraising campaign carried out jointly by UNDP Serbia and the municipality.

After attending UNDP’s Crowdfunding Academy, UNDP Serbia’s team guided Tutin municipality’s representatives through the entire process, to engage with local and broader communities together with the private sector and implement a comprehensive communication strategy once the campaign was launched.

At the same time, having in mind the importance of leaving no one behind and helping Tutin become a sustainable city and community, UNDP Serbia is engaging with its partners to make the campaign a success.

Find out more and donate so that no child is left behind!

[1] West, M., Melvin, G., McNamara, F., & Gordon, M. (2017). An evaluation of the use and efficacy of a sensory room within an adolescent psychiatric inpatient unit. Australian occupational therapy journal, 64(3), 253–263.

[2] Spyhalski, M. C. (2019). Program evaluation of the impact of sensory room activities on student readiness in Muskegon county.