Community Asset Transfer Success!

We are delighted to announce that Aberdeenshire Council have granted a Community Asset Transfer of the historic Old Schoolhouse to SensationALL, in a deal which marks the culmination of many years of effort.

The terms of the transfer – Aberdeenshire Council’s biggest to date – will provides us with a stable and secure base where we can continue to deliver services which are invaluable to families living with complex conditions such as autism, learning disabilities and neurological conditions.

Our Chair of the Board of Trustees, Bob McCracken said:

“This is a magnificent step forward for the charity, which provides it with a stable foundation on which to build and flourish. I would like to thank Aberdeenshire Council, the local Councillors, the local Community and the Trustees – past and present – for their support and hard work which has resulted in the charity being given this wonderful opportunity.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s transfer means we can now begin work on expanding the services we offer. Suz Strachan, Service Manager and co-founder of SensationALL said:

“This is an exciting and bold move for SensationALL. Taking over the long-term lease of the building presents a fantastic opportunity for us to develop our services and facilities as never before. Our future really is now in our own hands.”

As Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Garioch Area Committee, Cllr Fergus Hood added:

“We are so pleased to see this coming together for the benefit of the local community and to support the incredibly important work SensationALL do with some of our most vulnerable residents. We are committed to empowering communities to create their own success stories through community asset transfer projects and this is absolutely one of them.”

There are exciting plans in store for both SensationALL and the Old Schoolhouse as we work towards realising our charitable vision of creating a flagship service for individuals with support needs & disabilities in a state-of-the-art facility.

Follow our progress on social media

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SensationALL support for girls

This Autism Awareness Week (1st-7th April 2019) we are highlighting the positive impact SensationALL’s groups have on individuals with multiple support needs. In particular, we want to shout about the work we do with young girls who are pre or post diagnosis…

SensationALL Girl’s Group 

It’s well documented that it is much harder to diagnose Autism in girls so, at SensationALL we made it our aim to ensure that no young girls with suspected support needs are left in “limbo land” whilst seeking a diagnosis.

Our Girl’s Group programme was created for the growing number of young girls who need our help to address difficulties with anxiety, social interaction, communication and building relationships.

Our team of practitioners have designed each session to include topical discussions and practical tasks that are fun, whilst teaching invaluable de-stressing and coping strategies. Each week they use expressive materials to practice and reflect on their new skills.

The girls are encouraged to build friendships and work together which improves their confidence and boosts self-esteem. 

 

We are here for you! If you are a parent of a girl with Autism or suspected support needs who is over-

whelmed and struggling with life at school or home. SensationALL is a safe place where your daughter can be herself.

The next block of Girl’s Group starts on 23rd April.  Contact us to express an interest!

And check out this fantastic video from Carrie Grant who is a mum to children with Autism – its brilliant to hear girls’ perspectives…

 

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Make your own ‘SensationALL’ sensory story

To celebrate World Book Day (Thursday 7th March) we thought we’d share with you our top tips for making a DIY sensory story!

The benefits of sensory stories for individuals with multiple support needs are endless – they help capture their imagination, introduce new sensory experiences, develop language and social interaction. That’s why we use them in many of our groups here at SensationALL, for both children and adults.

To make your own sensory story at home follow these simple steps:

  1. Choose a book, story or theme that you like
  2. Keep it brief – shorten the story and simplify if necessary
  3. Keywords – think about who/what/where/doing words
  4. Use props – think about turning the key words into physical objects – things to touch and smell
  5. Noise – use sounds as much as possible such as songs and clapping. Actions and Makaton signs are also really useful
  6. Be imaginative – don’t worry if your prop isn’t literal, be inventive and creative 
  7. Have fun! Most important thing is to enjoy the journey the story takes you on

Here are some of the items we used in recent sensory stories…

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Why SensationALL use Sensory Stories…

Our innovative SensationALL service team are always thinking of new activities to incorporate into our sessions as it’s really important to us that all users get the most out of attending (no matter how complex their needs).

SensationALL services are for children and adults with multiple support needs and sensory impairments so we use a variety of multi-sensory materials and activities that stimulate and engage and recently sensory stories have become a significant part of what we do.

A Magic Carpet Journey!

Sensory stories are a key feature of our new Midweek Mayhem adult sessions. Each week we will be going on a ‘Magic Carpet journey’ – using our senses to explore the place we ‘visit’.

By using interactive elements during story-telling (sights, sounds, touch and scents) we take the group on a virtual journey. Using their creativity, our staff come up with a variety of materials relating to the chosen story and while reading it, offer everyone the chance to interact by touching, smelling, seeing and hearing. This hugely beneficial for the service users as they are actively involved with the story rather than simply listening as they may have difficulty following or understanding the spoken words.

Last week we visited an Arabian Bazar…

To set the scene we had a background image and music from an Arabian market on the smart board. Our story took us through Egypt, where we encountered snakes, camels and belly dancers! We used materials to look, listen, feel and smell during each part of the story as an interactive experience. The textures of sand and jewelled jelly and the smell of mixed spices encouraged them to explore and try new experiences.

Our Arabian journey was a huge success:

“It’s great to see him engage so well!”  service user’s carer

We can’t wait for our next magic carpet ride to China to celebrate Chinese New Year! If you want to join us, our service diary has more information on whats on at the Old Schoolhouse this term.

   

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SensationALL top tips for Christmas

For most people Christmas is an exciting time but it usually means a change in routine which, for families with multiple support needs (MSN) can be upsetting and disruptive. Not to mention all the additional sensory experiences such as Christmas lights, music and scents which can be overwhelming.

To help our MSN families, the SensationALL team have shared some top tips to make Christmas a fun experience for everyone:

  • CALENDAR – mark off days with no school or other meaningful words or symbols. Highlight Christmas day and first day back to school.
  • Use a SCHEDULE or checklist to indicate what activities will be completed during the day. Use visuals/symbols to suit individual communication.
  • Plan activities for ENERGY BURNING such as a trip to the park on the swings, inclusive sessions at trampoline park or soft play. Or play indoor games such as hide and seek or a treasure hunt.
  • Build in BREAK TIMES to help with relaxation as well, have a quiet space away from the overwhelming aspects of Christmas. This could be a space with no music and low lighting such as a tent or den in quiet space in the house. Or use relaxation music and calming scents like lavender. You could also use deep pressure such as massage or heavy blankets as a calming strategy.
  • Have your OWN VERSION OF CHRISTMAS – do whatever works best for you, don’t feel you have to conform to tradition or what everyone else is doing! If your child doesn’t want too many presents keep them for the days following Christmas or if they don’t want presents wrapped maybe just use a gift bag. Have what you want for dinner or what you know your person with MSN will eat. Try having a taster of the Christmas meal on small plates to try to reduce stress over different/new foods and textures.
  • Take CALMING RESOURCES such as noise cancelling headphones with or without music or distraction aids such as fidget spinners or bubbles. You may have to allow for a reduced level of tolerance of new, challenging or sensory demanding situations. Some of strategies from our Chill-oot! and Girl’s Groups are perfect e.g. glitter sensory bottles are a fantastic coping tool to support emotional regulation. To make these simply add glue and glitter with warm water to a clear plastic bottle; watch as the glitter slowly swirls with the water. Other great ideas for easy to make coping strategies can be found on Pinterest.
  • SENSORY STORIES – A Christmas themed social story can help to explain the festive season – you can even write your own personalised story, check out this useful guide.

We also can’t forget that this time of year can be equally challenging for siblings as they may have to modify their own excitement or even make sacrifices to suit their siblings with MSN. However, there are simple things you can do to make sure they don’t miss out on the festive feeling; watch a Christmas movie together, do some Christmas baking, have a Christmas shopping trip – most importantly plan some 1-to-1 time for them with a parent. A present or specially created message from their sibling might be appreciated too.

Here are some useful visuals which can be used in the techniques above, as well as December and January calendar sheets for printing to stick the symbols on.

We hope you all have a relaxed, magical time this Christmas!

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SensationALL and Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving, after Black Friday and Cyber Monday it is a day to give back and do good. At SensationALL we love the idea and thought it was the perfect opportunity to shout about the ways you can support our charity.

SensationALL are dedicated to providing outstanding therapeutic services for individuals with support needs and their families however, we simply couldn’t operate without help from our volunteers, supporters and local community! We rely on our volunteers giving their time to our users during services , fundraising committee giving their time at events, we rely on corporate supporters giving donations and raffle prizes. 

We have just launched our Christmas Card Campaign 2018 when we’re asking people to donate instead of sending cards this year. One of our parents was the first to sign up because of the experiences she’s had at SensationALL:

“SensationALL has provided an exemplary location for our son to feel at ease, the staff and other families provided a welcoming respite in a demanding world. Every £1 here makes a real impact!”

Here are some other ways you can give to SensationALL.

  • Volunteer at upcoming events (SensationALL Ceilidh, Friday 30th November, Winter Wonderland, Saturday 08th December)
  • Donations for our Winter Wonderland fayre – Chocolate, Home baking (drop off at the Old Schoolhouse by 06th and 07th December) and bottles for the bottle stall.
  • Fundraise for SensationALL – we’ve got places at Run Balmoral and Ride the North 2019 or organise your own fundraiser doing whatever you like!

If you want to give some time to SensationALL in any shape, we’d love to hear from you – email volunteering@sensationall.org.uk #SensationALL

Check out what the SensationALL team do here

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SensationALL christmas present ideas

At this time of year, the SensationALL team are often asked for suggestions for Christmas presents or sticking filler ideas for multi support needs children. Our experienced team of Occupational Therapists and Support Workers often spend time researching products, toys and objects to not only use during our groups or at events, but also for training workshops! We have used some of these ideas to put together a starter-for-10 Christmas present list:

Special Needs Toys Website –  this is a great website with sensory specific sections for toys and equipment. From tactile to proprioceptive, this website covers all basis’ for sensory specific presents for unique individuals.

Sequin Snap Bracelet – these reversible sequin snap bracelets are good sensory fidgets that are wearable – our service users in the SensationALL holiday groups and Chill OOT especially loved using these. There are lots of other reversable sequin products such as cushions, pencil cases, backpacks etc that would also make for a great Christmas gift.

Infinity Loop – this is a stainless steel springy slinky for your arm. Our SensationALL service users have loved using these in our Inclusive Social Group and our sensory sessions. A simple but highly enjoyable interactive toy that provides endless fun.

Marks and Spencers Kids Easy Dressing Range – we love the special range of clothes M&S have created which are adapted for children who need extra help. With clothing options for anyone with feeding tubes or if they simply need clothes that are easy to put on and gentle for sensitive skin. The Easy Dressing range aims to help make dressing easier, quicker, more comfortable – and more fun!

Sensory Body Sock – body socks are a great resource to try out for individuals with multiple support needs. The resistant walls of the body sock provide a tactile means of self-referencing that improves body awareness and assists in developing spatial awareness through balance and resistance. At SensationALL we have used body socks in several of our social and emotional regulation groups and lots of the kids love them!

Our last Christmas gift idea is of course, the SensationALL gift card! Available to buy directly from SensationALL by emailing info@sensationall.org.uk or you can buy one from the Old Schoolhouse when you are at one of our groups or events. Each gift card costs £30 and provides 6 hour long sessions at any of our groups! A great gift to access SensationALL’s exciting range of services. #SensationALL

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SensationALL and Children in Need

SensationALL provide therapeutic activities and specialist support for individuals with disabilities or multiple support needs (MSN), their families and associated professionals. To improve the lives of children and adults with disabilities by supporting them, we make specialist support accessible to the whole family in a tailored environment.

This year we were lucky enough to have secured three years funding from Children in Need, this funding has assisted the development of two groups to promote inclusion, social opportunities and empowerment of skills for children with multiple support needs and their siblings.

Inclusive Social Group

Previously only a monthly group, the Inclusive Social Group now runs every second week and is a social group for primary school-aged children with support needs (mainly autism and learning issues) and their siblings. It is run in conjunction with our sister social enterprise out of school care club, Schools Out! This gives us the opportunity to create a safe, supported environment for children with mainstream and diverse needs to play and learn from each other. A range of games, interactive activities and therapeutic rooms are available for all the children,  supported by experienced SensationALL staff. An added benefit for most of our families is that it is a drop-off session, where parents and carers are not expected to stay on-site, so providing a brief period of respite in an often challenging life.

Already it is evident how valuable this group is for families, some of whom travel almost 20 miles to attend. One mother said “It is one of the few places that we can come and I can leave my son, knowing that he is not only cared for in a safe place, but that he will be encouraged to engage with a range of peers, while learning to tolerate others and have unique opportunities to self-regulate with supportive staff in special facilities”.

One young sibling also said “It’s great that my brother has autism because it means that we both get to come here and play with our friends. I get to meet other siblings and have great fun!”

SocALLise Teenage Social Group

This group has developed rapidly over the last two school terms, increasing attendee numbers by 60%. It is attended weekly by academy-aged youngsters with various support needs (most being autism related). As well as this group being structured around usual youth club type activities like; pool, games, baking, sports, quizzes, and creative projects; the youth group get the opportunity to partake in community based visits and outings.

SensationALL Operational Team Lead, Suz Strachan says: “the focus for this group is to promote confidence, provide social and community based opportunities to increase vocational experiences and generally promote social skills and self resilience.”

One teenager said “I struggle to fit in, always have and SocALLise gives me a place to come every week where I can meet my friends and be accepted. I would probably just do nothing or sit in my room otherwise.” One of the parents expressed the difference it had already made to their teenage son: “…we have seen our son’s confidence increase and for a boy who’s default mode is reluctance, avoidance and negative thinking; the staff have quickly attuned to his needs and found ways to encourage his involvement in all the group’s activities.”

With less than 10% of income originating from service income, SensationALL rely heavily on grants, trusts and donations to ensure the continuation of life-changing groups like those supported by Children in Need and to help the development of their unique vision of an inclusive supportive hub for the North of Scotland.

SensationALL are very thankful for the opportunity to benefit from the support of Children in Need, not only in the form of funding, but also in their marketing and training support, which for a small, growing charity can assist with the empowerment of skills to ensure long term sustainability.

For more information on any of our groups and services, see our timetable here or contact us. #SensationALL

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SensationALL suggestions for Bonfire Night

Bonfire night (like many of society’s popular calendar events) can be anything but enjoyable for many of our unique individuals with support needs. Many who suffer from anxiety and sensory issues can find the unexpected nature of displays very stressful and a trigger for meltdowns. We have put together a few SensationALL suggestions to help make bonfire night a more positive experience.

Preparation

Creating a visual countdown to “out of routine” events can be beneficial to help your child understand not only when bonfire night will take place, but it is also important to build in variability of the event – although it’s one night, chances are there will be displays and random fireworks a few days before and after – using a question mark might be a way of suggesting that there could be some unexpected noises or fireworks.

Creating your own Social Stories are an effective methods to provide guidance and directions for responding to various types of social situations.. They may use images or words to present the situation and can be another good way to prepare your child. It can be beneficial to include any possible sensory or coping strategies in this as well. i.e. “when I feel upset/stressed, I can pull up my hood and use my earphones to listen to my music”.

By their nature fireworks are unpredictable, so try to help your child understand what to expect. Watching videos of firework displays – building up sound levels or demonstrating sparklers in advance could help.

Firework Displays

Some local authorities provide accommodated displays that are suitable for people with disabilities – these might be less crowded and cause less anxiety. Parking some distance from the display and watching from the car is one way to enjoy the visuals without any of the noise. If you go to a big display, you might want to find a quieter spot from crowds. Let your child know how long the display might last/you plan to stay and explain that they can retreat to the car when they have had enough. If you are attending an event for the first time, this might be a very short time. It is best to create a positive experience and possibly using “5 more then car or home” might extend the time, while still ending up on a positive note for next year.

If you are having fireworks in the house, allow your child to watch from inside where it is warm and they can experience the pretty sights without the loud noises. Table top fireworks, quieter fireworks or a virtual one might be a better place to start. Again, consider identifying a safe space or coping strategy – i.e. “when I feel upset/stressed, I can go to my room and use my earphones to listen to my music”.

Sensory Issues

Ear defenders, earphones and swimming ear putty (available from Boots Chemist and online via amazon) can help to block noise and reduce the anxiety that people with sensory issues may experience. Using ear or headphones and music can be a way to include a coping/distraction strategy – as can handheld games/electronics/figit toys.  

  • Bluetooth headphones are our new special toy – especially ones that allow you to talk over music/give instructions/reassurance.
  • Consider the cold for outdoor displays – warm or weighted clothes can also be a great comfort.  Use of hoods and ear muffs might also help.
  • Have back up plan – like a sensory space – explain what their coping options are: back to the car, hide under a hood/blanket/weighted item/put sunglasses on.

Another online resource to look at for Bonfire night is this website with safety advice.

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October holidays with SensationALL

We cannot believe it is just a week to go until the end of the first term and the October Holidays! SensationALL has had a busy few months and there has been lots of activity in the Old Schoolhouse, including some renovations and makeover of some of our rooms and outdoor area. If you haven’t visited for a while remember we have stay-and-play sessions every second Sunday and a morning drop-in session on the first Tuesday of the month.

For now, let’s see the holiday events programme!

  • Monday 15 October

Inclusive Social Group with Schools Out! Club from 2pm to 4pm; come and try some Lego therapy techniques encouraging service users to work alongside their peers on a Lego project. There will be choices available with free play construction and other games including interactive online games on the Smart Board and is £5 per child and is suitable for MSN children and their siblings.

  • Tuesday 16 October

Inclusive Social Group with Schools Out! Club from 1.30pm to 3.30pm for a Fairy and Gremlin session, where you can get creative making pixie dust and gremlin goo! We will also have a go at making our own fairy garden, with pot planting and stone painting and try and find all the different Fairy and Gremlin homes at the bottom of the garden (where the Fairies live). Use your match cards to see if you have found them all and take part in the multi-sensory experience and see if you can hear the flutter of the fairy wings and the chatter of the gremlins as well as tasting magical themed snacks and is £5 per child, suitable for MSN children and their siblings.

  • Wednesday 17 October

Music Mayhem in the Old Schoolhouse from 6.30pm to 7.30pm! This is a drop-in session for all ages and abilities and is £4 per family.

  • Thursday 18 October

Sensory stations (10.30am to 11.30am) and free play (11.30am to 12.30pm). Our sensory station activity will involve a ‘have a go’ variety of sensory tools, including massagers, weighted blankets and music. Get involved with creating your own fidgets such as scented jewellery and stress balloons! We will also have the opportunity to use the soft play and sensory room. £5 for the session, suitable for MSN children and their siblings.

Musical Performance with Aberdeen musician and performing artist, Sam Stephen from 1.30pm to 2.30pm. Get involved with our accessible production, including interactive music with plenty of chances to sing, act, sign and dance! £5 per child.

Free Play session with the SensationALL team in the soft playroom and sensory room from 2.30pm to 3.30pm. £5 per child.

Booking is essential for all activities (except for Music Mayhem which is a drop-in sessions) and is possible via email or telephone 01223 746699. The SensationALL top-up cards are valid for the holiday sessions too. #SensationALL

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