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!

Share Button

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

Share Button

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

Share Button

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

Share Button

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.

Share Button

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

Share Button

CML take on a “SensationALL” project

A team of volunteers from Aberdeen-based midstream infrastructure business CATS Management Limited (CML) have shown their ongoing commitment to local charity SensationALL by rolling up their sleeves for two days of DIY activities for the second year running.

SensationALL provides support and multi-sensory experiences for children and adults with disabilities and multiple support needs, their families and associated professionals. In 2016, the charity was successful in its application for a Community Asset Transfer from Aberdeenshire Council for the Old Schoolhouse building in Westhill and is now working towards transforming it into a purpose-built facility.

In 2017, CML funded the purchase and installation of a new summer house and was involved in painting, gardening and general maintenance. This year’s support included removing and replacing cupboards, painting the main activity room and upgrading the outdoor garden space. CML also donated £5,000 to cover the cost of new flooring and storage units.

Suz Strachan, operational lead and co-founder of SensationALL, said: “The support that we have received from CML is overwhelming. Their team are a dynamic bunch who power through maintenance tasks that our small team simply don’t have the time or resources to do. Their enthusiasm for what we do at SensationALL is fantastic and we love having them onsite.”

SensationALL is staffed by experienced specialist practitioners who deliver therapeutic sensory based activities that promote early intervention for individuals with support needs such as autism as well as those with learning disabilities and neurodevelopmental conditions.

Suz Strachan added: “This year we are particularly excited that in addition to all the internal work, CML have helped us upcycle some items donated by the AWPR. The new seating area will be used for outdoor learning as it enables us to take groups outside and utilise the sights, sounds and smells of our garden as a sensory experience.”

Andy Hessell, managing director of CML, said: “As a small, independent charity, SensationALL relies on companies like CML to help it achieve its goal of creating a safe, stimulating and practical environment for the people they support. We have seen first-hand the positive difference SensationALL has on individuals, their families and the local community, and are delighted to continue to support Suz and her inspirational team.”

Share Button

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

Share Button

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

Share Button

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

Share Button