Inclusion · Philosophy

The Paradox of the Great Gatsby: Designing a Sensory Room

My apologies for the hiatus for the past week to all my avid readers, however I am back briefly with a lot of research to share.

To try and ostensibly shoe-horn some literature references into something that would otherwise be a rather dull article on designing a sensory room, I thought I’d begin with a consideration of the Great Gatsby. In many ways, Fitzgerald’s third great work (to be followed by one focused exclusively on mental health treatment) has at its heart the contradiction between perceptions and reality. If we take Nietzsche’s perspectivism into account, it becomes evident Gatsby cloaked himself in an infinite number of perceptions, so as to reveal that what is beyond the perception, the REAL, was ultimately nothing. There was no being at its heart, even with the worm of non-being inside of it (thank you Sartre). We have the idea that the person is nothing, and what it reality (to use the Heideggerian distinction) are the perceptions. The role of autonomy is to the extent that the actor has mastery over the perceptions which surround the enigma of the self. Yet this essential oxymoron, whereby the brilliance of appearance is a Dionysian mask to obscure the dull reality, has a rather sinister parallel – that for something to be essentially meaningful it must be dull. We have this pious rhetoric shining forth, and no doubt Cromwell would be proud to see such attestations to the role of the profunctory. When we consider Nick, he is this boredom and it is through him that meaning is gifted. He gives Gatsby meaning by seeing him as a person. Yet through these parallels, there is something inescapable – that meaning must be boring to have substance. It must be free from brilliant perceptions, as if the Dionysian parties can never have an Apollonian solidity.

This stands in contrast to what this article is about, as here we’re looking to make something both brilliant and meaningful. So there is almost a unified consensus on the benefits of sensory rooms as a support method for students with Autistic tendencies, sensory impairments, or behavioral issues including anger management. However, there is very little support on how to design a sensory room.

Initially starting the process, I focused on the lighting and music, and found:

Lightahead Ocean Master Relaxing wave light color projector and speaker – £24

Black light bulb – £5

An excellent pairing that will allow the room to have ambient music and rotating lights on the ceiling at very low cost. The black light pairs with the UV wall paint so the walls can also become a feature.

UV Wall Paint – 8 colours – £10


For the decorations, there’s many options, but for low-cost high-impact resources, here’s a few ideas:

Colour changing Fibre optic fountain – £1

Liquid Double coloured timers – £5

Playlearn SIM6 Infinity Mirror Tunnel Lamp – £12

The focus here was on durability, allowing a combination of visual and kinaesthetic ideas. However, for a high-cost but high-impact resource, the highest rated by parents and carers has to be:

Playlearn moving jellyfish tank LED Lights – £45

Other high-cost ideas include:

Extra-large acrylic bubble tube at 6ft – £270

Don’t worry, there’s a slightly smaller version available for £38 here.


For comfort and seating, with the ability to support the lighting, there’s:

Light up sensory cushion mood pillow – £10


And for sensory toys which are durable and interesting, there’s:

Pin art metal pins impression toy – £12

Glitter wand tubes 32cm long pack of 4 – £13


Having a sensory room is a comparatively cost-effective intervention which can have a huge impact in schools. The resources sited above are appropriate for most settings, as I’ve focused on choosing generic, high-rated resources which can be accommodated in even a small space.

So whether you’re looking to cater for autistic learners, learners with anger issues, or you just want to show Fitzgerald that excitement can have meaning, a sensory room is a must have intervention.

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