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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Life Skills Group with SensationALL

After the success of our first Life Skills Group, the second programme is due to start on Tuesday, 21st August. This 8-week session runs on a Tuesday from 1pm to 2.30pm in the Old Schoolhouse, Westhill from 21st August until the 09th October.

Having life skills is an essential part of being able to meet the challenges of everyday life and be as independent as possible. For many individuals, both adults and children with MSN, it can be difficult to manage activities of daily living and they may need tasks to be adapted or require assistance to participate.

The SensationALL Life Skills Group is aimed at individuals who have been identified as having a need and / or the potential to develop their daily independence skills, like making a cup of tea, doing dishes, creating an art project or gardening. The programme and its activities have been designed by Occupational Therapists and the chosen activity will be identified, graded and developed giving each individual more independence, confidence and self-esteem.

What the carers had to say:

“…she has looked forward to every session.”

” …giving them a sense of achievement.”

“…developed new responsibilities.”

“…learning how quickly someone with additional needs can learn so much and progress so quickly.”

What the team volunteers had to say:

“…seen an increased confidence in the service users.”

“…enjoyed watching them go from strength to strength.”

“…I have learned patience and empathy.”

Eligibility to join the SensationALL Life Skills Group includes the ability to understand instruction (verbal, written or visuals) and a basic skill level in chosen activity and interest in certain life skills activities.

Limited spaces left for this small group, please contact info@sensationall.co.uk or telephone 01224 746699 to book your place. #SensationALL

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APACHE OPEN STATE-OF-THE-ART SENSORY ROOM IN SENSATIONALL

On the back of the Apache North Sea Limited donation to SensationALL, the local charity has reopened the newly refurbished Sensory Room!

As part of Apache’s Corporate Outreach Programme, the Kingswells-based company awarded the charity £30,000 and the donation went towards the renovation and repurposing of the Sensory room, transforming the old Sensory room into a state-of-art interactive space, with a higher specification and bespoke design around the user-needs.

The room was closed for almost a two week period whilst the redevelopment project was underway.

Suz Strachan, SensationALL Operational Team Lead, talks us through the transition of the Sensory Room and what the donation and new space means to the users : “we’ve managed for a number of years with second hand goods and a makeshift set up, starting off by revamping a cleaning cupboard in rented premises in 2012!”

Suz continues: “We now have more opportunities for users to control their environment; to use switches, self generating noise and Bluetooth technology to do so. We use this in combination with low tech resources and utilise the environment to engage in learning, offer choices and use an intensive interactive approach to promote optimal communication with all our users. The upgrading of our room brings us one step closer to achieving an inclusive flagship facility, with a community focus and reflects the specialist sensory based services that we provide.”

SensationALL evolved from the closure of the Raeden Centre (a facility for children with complex needs in Aberdeen) in the Summer of 2011 and the team originally rented facilities in Lawsondale where they ran family support sessions and hosted play sessions in the soft play centre; they became a registered Scottish charity in 2012.

In 2016, the team acquired the Old School and Schoolhouse building to transform into a purpose-built facility for the provision of specialist services and therapeutic activities for MSN users, as well as community facilities, including an out of school club and rooms available to community groups and local businesses.

The donation from Apache has enabled SensationALL to widen the benefits of use to more of their service users and takes the charity one step closer to their dream.

Patricia Paterson, Executive Assistant at Apache, opened the new Sensory Room and said: “I am absolutely delighted with the transformation of the old sensory room into a state of the interactive multi-purpose room!  Apache are privileged to have been able to make a difference in improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities”

You can view the clip of the Sensory Room renovation project here! #SensationALL

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Are you SensationALL?

SensationALL is a small charity with big ideas and we are growing… which gives us the opportunity to add to our team!

We are currently recruiting for the following posts, based at the Old Schoolhouse, Westhill:

  • Service Practitioner
  • Sessional Support Worker

The successful candidates will be joining a dynamic, innovative and friendly team who provide support, advice and training in the field of multiple support needs (MSN) for people of all ages. You will work in a supportive environment, where you will be encouraged to bring new ideas to the table and put them into practice and watch things grow!

The Service Practitioner will be degree level qualified in a relevant field (Occupational / Speech Therapy,  Psychology, Teaching or similar) and will have a professional registration, such as HCPC, GTLS or SSSC. They will have some experience of working with children or adults with a disability and be able to evidence an appreciation of complex needs. They will have strong team skills; will enjoy researching and developing new ideas and will work towards leading some of our MSN sessions.

A detailed job description and person specification is available via email.

The Sessional Support Worker will have experience in working with young people and or adults with support needs and hold a qualification in that field or be willing to work towards one. They will have experience of leading small groups and activities and show an understanding and appreciation of MSN. Experience of working with volunteers is desirable but not essential.

A detailed job description and person specification is available via email.

These posts are offered on a temporary basis with the aim of making them permanent; selection will be based on CV review, with successful candidates being invited to interview and a relevant practical skills test. Interviews are likely to be held during the week commencing 2nd April 2018.

Read more about SensationALL here and see how full services here, you can also see 

To apply for either of the positions, please email a CV with covering letter to info@sensationall.org.uk by 30th March. #SensationALL

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Sensory Playgroup Round Up

Our first Sensory Playgroup of 2018 is done and dusted! This is a relatively new group for SensationALL and ran once towards the end of 2017. This session ran on Thursday mornings for a 4-week block and was fully booked within weeks of being announced! The next session for term 1 starts on 01st March and runs on a Thursday from 1pm – 2pm (01 March to 22nd March).

The Sensory Playgroup is held in the Old Schoolhouse and run by experienced practitioners. Each week is themed and the group spend time in our soft play room and the sensory room too.

In this recent block we followed four themes:

  1. Transport
  2. Farm Yard
  3. Monsters
  4. Rainbow

Each week we had different sensory trays exploring textures, smells and surfaces that related to the theme. We also had a sensory story for each theme and ended the sessions with a period of relaxation for the children, this usually took place in our Sensory Room or the soft play room.

Here’s what some of the parents and carers had to say about out recent Sensory Playgroup:                                                                                                                                                                                                          

“…I feel that as they [SensationALL service practitioners] use Makaton it helps enforce using it and it’s the only group we’ve been to that uses it.”

“…I don’t feel like my child is the ‘odd’ one out at this group, it’s more inclusive and not judging.”

“It’s a chance to meet other parents.”

“…useful to guide and play with him at home.”

“The ideas and knowledge of the staff are great strengths of the group.”

“The group is very relaxed and accepting. Positive and progressive approach for the child.”

We had amazing feedback from our parents and carers and the children enjoyed exploring the different sensory experiences available to them. We can’t wait to start the next block!  

To sign up for the next block of Sensory Playgroup (01 March to 22 March from 1pm to 2pm), please email info@sensationall.org.uk or telephone 01224 746699 #SensationALL

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Stay-and-Play at SensationALL

The SensationALL team have been running stay-and-play sessions since November 2011. The play sessions take place in the Old School House, Westhill, and run twice a month on alternating Sunday’s, families book a time slot and “stay and play” for an hour, our qualified Service Practitioners are on hand too.

First Term 2018 Stay-and-Play dates:-

  1. Sunday, 03rd June
  2. Sunday, 17th June
  3. Sunday, 01st July

The Old Schoolhouse has a soft play area, a sensory room and a coffee lounge area, all-inclusive is the driving force behind our charity and we welcome ASN (additional sensory needs) children and their siblings to our play sessions.

Stay-and-play sessions cater for both families based in Aberdeen City and Shire, but also for those on holiday in the North East or travelling through. Play is vital for child development and soft play is a great environment for children to develop motor skills, particularly those gross motor skills such as jumping, spinning and running.

The sessions give children with MSN (multi sensory needs) the opportunity to to be stimulated and explore their surroundings in a safe and friendly environment with experienced and knowledgeable Service Practitioners. It is also a great chance to meet other parents/carers and for siblings to join in the fun too!

SensationALL Services Practitioner, Mhairi says: “giving a child with MSN regular visits to a sensory environment such as SensationALL’s safe sensory room where they can be supported by experienced staff and attending the stay-and-play sessions in the Old Schoolhouse can help stimulate senses, help children relax and explore new experiences and build sensory tolerances”.

Email info@sensationall.org.uk  or contact 01224 746699 to book a stay-and-play session. #SensationALL

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CATS Management volunteers in DIY-SOS style challenge

Volunteers from Aberdeen-based midstream infrastructure business CATS Management Limited (CML), took on their own DIY SOS style challenge last week by giving a makeover to the facilities of Westhill-based charity, SensationALL.

A team from CML rolled up their sleeves and threw themselves into two days of DIY activities including painting, gardening, and general housekeeping and maintenance at SensationALL’s centre at the Old School and Schoolhouse in Westhill.

CML also donated £5000, which has been used to purchase a summer house. The summer house will be the focal point in the redevelopment of the centre’s outdoor space and will provide an additional area for activities like gardening, crafts and a safe, quiet space for many of SensationALL’s service users who benefit from a low stimulating environment.

SensationALL provides therapeutic activities and specialist support for individuals with disabilities or “multiple support needs” (MSN), their families and associated professionals. In 2016, the charity acquired the Old School and Schoolhouse building from Aberdeenshire Council, and is working to transform it into a purpose-built facility.

Andy Hessell, managing director of CATS Management Limited said: “We wanted to get involved with a local, independent charity, where our financial and hands-on support could really make a difference, and SensationALL fits the bill perfectly.

“The passion, drive and commitment of the SensationALL team is at the heart of everything they do, and their work has such a positive impact on the lives of so many individuals and families across Aberdeen city and shire.”

SensationALL’s operational team lead, Suz Strachan said: ” Being a small, developing charity, all financial support from companies, individual donations or fundraising has a considerable impact on our service deliverables and helps contribute to our continued sustainability. We are particularly grateful to companies like CML who, at this challenging time in the oil and gas industry, have made a deliberate effort to support a small, local charity.

“The summer house that their donation has allowed us to purchase will be a great asset for all our groups, out of school provision and service users of all ages who have multiple support needs and disabilities.”

Andy Hessell added: “We are delighted to be working with SensationALL to help improve their facilities at Westhill and I would encourage other companies to come along and find out more about the charity, and how they might be able to help, whether that’s by providing financial support, or hands-on assistance.

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