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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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 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 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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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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What is Sensory Playgroup?

The SensationALL Sensory Playgroup programme is a 4-week block and we are about to start our second round on 18th January (18th January to 08th February) This 1-hour session runs from 10am to 11am and is for pre-school aged children with or without identified sensory issues.

This is a semi-structured group that aims to assist children use their senses to explore and make sense of the world around them. The sessions are run by Service Practitioners, Mhairi and Ellie who explain: “Sensory play is crucial to brain development, helping to build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways to learn more complex learning tasks, language development, gross motor skills, social interaction and problem-solving skills”.

The sessions, led by Mhairi and Ellie, will have different themed activities which are self-led by each child and encourage touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, moving and hearing.

Here’s what some of the parents from our last Sensory Playgroup programme had to say:

“…excellent ideas and a safe place to try them.”

“…the professional support and knowledge is excellent and makes you feel welcome and relaxed.”

“…it is very specific to our needs as a family and feels unique to us.”

“…it is great fun and a happy atmosphere; everyone is great and very helpful.”

“…good ideas I wouldn’t have thought of and given ideas to try at home.”

“…there are no other groups like this.”

“…definitely worth going, I have already told other parents!”

“…it’s in a bright and friendly environment with carers who take notice of the children and are willing to help at any stage.”

Email info@sensationall.org.uk for more information on the Sensory Playgroup and to join the group.

  1. Thursday morning block (18th January to 08th February) 10am to 11am
  2. Thursday afternoon block  (01st March to 22nd March) 1pm to 2pm
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DIY sensory play activities

After a busy few months in the SensationALL Old Schoolhouse, including the summer and October holiday programmes and our new group, Sensory Playgroup; the services team have put together a collection of some of our most successful sensory play ideas. How do we measure the success of our sensory play ideas? By the feedback and experience on the day of the children with additional and multiple support needs and their parents and or carers who are on site!  

Play is an important way for children to spend their time, not only is it fun, but it gives the child(ren) plenty of opportunities to learn-through-play about the world around them. Children start off by exploring the world through their senses – enjoying how things look, feel and even taste. Sensory play is a way for children to explore all of their senses and build up a tolerance for different sensory experiences and the environment around them; it also helps support language and communication development, social interaction, problem solving and fine and gross motor skills.

Children who have multiple support needs (MSN) may have more specific difficulties with some sensory sensations and this can sometimes result in challenging reactions. Children with multiple sensory needs require more tailored learning experiences, like sensory play activities, to help them makes sense of these experiences and build up tolerances to different sensory stimulation.

Sensory play is not only about touch but also taste, smell and colour; here’s some DIY sensory play activities that the services team at SensationALL used recently that utilise all the senses.

  A rainbow rice tray, we used this play activity for a weather-themed session at our Sensory playgroup. You will need:

  • 1kg uncooked rice
  • Food colouring (yellow, green, blue and pink)
  • Zip lock bags

Method: separate your rice evenly into four zip lock bags, then add the different food colourings to each bag of rice. Add about a teaspoon of colouring to each bag to begin with and mix together with a spoon. Add more food colouring accordingingly. Once evenly coated you should be left with four different coloured bags of rice. Leave these to dry overnight with the zip lock open. Your rice should be dry the next day and ready to assemble into your sensory rainbow rice tray! Arrange the rice into four sections, with the separate colours, then watch them all mix together as they are played with.

The Under-the-Sea Jelly Tray was used during one of our themed-weeks during our recent Sensory playgroup programme. You will need:

  • 4 packs of gelatin (each pack should have 4 gelatin leaves in it)
  • Blue food colouring
  • Assorted ‘under-the-sea’ themed toys

Method: According to the packet instructions, separate your gelatin into individual leaves and add boiling water to it. The ratio should be around 1 pint of water to 1 leaf of gelatin. Do this individually for each leaf of gelatin, stirring the gelatin into the water until it dissolves completely, then add each pint of water/gelatin mix into your tray. Once your tray is three quarters of the way full, add a few drops of the blue food colouring to the water/gelatin mix and mix in until you get the desired shade of blue. Next you can add your ‘under-the-sea’ themed toys to the tray, positioning some of them so they stick out a bit of the water/gelatin mix. We used some sea animal bath toys, penguin toys and boats for our tray but you can use anything that you think may be a good addition! Leave the tray on a level surface or in your fridge to set overnight and by the next day the jelly will have set and the Under-the-Sea jelly tray will be ready to use!

The Sensory Ice Tray was used during one of our Sensory playgroup sessions and we put the coloured and flavoured ice cubes into a water tray to allow the children to safely explore touch, taste and temperature. The ice cubes can also be used to “paint” onto paper, for a fun sensory drawing activity. You will need:

  • Four ice cube trays
  • Food colouring (red, green, yellow and blue)
  • Teabags (Red Berry, Peppermint and Lemon and Ginger)

Method: Brew three mugs of tea, one with a red berry tea bag, one with a peppermint tea bag and one with a lemon and ginger tea bag. Leave the tea bags to brew for around 10 minutes, then remove the tea bags and add a couple drops of the corresponding food colouring to the individual mugs (red for the red berry, green for peppermint and yellow for lemon and ginger) until you get a strong colour for each one. Take three of your ice cube trays and fill them up with the tea you have brewed. For the fourth tray, add a few drops of blue food colouring to a mug of cold water then stir so the food colouring is evenly distributed and pour the blue liquid into the fourth ice cube tray (this tray will be unscented to allow children that are more sensitive to smell to still have an enjoyable sensory experience). Put all four ice cube trays into the freezer overnight then take them out the next day ready to use.

The next SensationALL sensory play group session will start in 2018, as well as our Chill-OOT programme and Early Communications Group. Email info@sensationall.org.uk for more information about these or any of our other groups and workshops. #SensationALL

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