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 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  or contact 01224 746699 to book a stay-and-play session. #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 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 for more information about these or any of our other groups and workshops. #SensationALL

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SensationALL & Schools Out! inclusive partnerships

This year we are celebrating our fifth birthday! We have achieved so much since we registered our charity back in 2012, now employing six staff and working towards the Community Asset Transfer of the Old Schoolhouse in Westhill too. In 2017, SensationALL have also set-up an associated social enterprise business, Schools Out! Club, to provide a much needed out of school care provision in Westhill.

It’s early days for this start-up organisation, nicknamed SOC Westhill; and numbers are on the rise as more families in the area become aware of it’s existence. The Schools Out! club has access to two multi-purpose activity rooms, a small soft play area, outdoor play space and a wide range of resources; just some of the benefits of operating from the same Old Schoolhouse facility as the associated charity.

From this partnership, a joint monthly after-school social group has developed, including children with and without support needs. Children who already attend the Schools Out! club have the option to join the SensationALL Social Group, which runs the first Wednesday of every month between 4.30pm and 6pm. This Inclusive Social Group is for primary-school aged children and their siblings; and is a safe environment perfect for building friendships, learning new skills and having fun.  

Diane Forbes, the manager of Schools Out! club says: “the joint group provides opportunities for more peer contact, a wider range of activities, socialising and fun!”.

Suz Strachan, Operational and Service Lead for SensationALL, tells us that the monthly Social Group “completely reflects the inclusive ethos of SensationALL and all that we are trying to achieve and promote in the local Westhill community”.

Suz continues: “We offer our service users a safe environment to enjoy themselves and more importantly, to be themselves whilst benefitting from specialist support from the staff to optimise valuable opportunities to socialise with peers.”

The Social Group is a drop-off and drop-in session on the first Wednesday of every month in the Old Schoolhouse, Westhill between 4.30pm and 6pm. The group is for primary school aged children and their siblings, and is £4 / person including snacks and refreshments. Contact SensationALL to book your space at

The Schools Out! Club is open for children from Elrick and Westhill Primary school and is a before and after-school’s club. Contact Diane directly for more information #SensationALL #SOCWesthill

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New key appointments for SensationALL

Aberdeen charity SensationALL has recently added two key players to their team. Michael Goodlad, in the newly created role of Charity Development Manager and Ellie Turner as a Support Worker in the Services team.

Bob McCracken, chairman of SensationALL, told us “Michael and Ellie’s appointments is another exciting step towards achieving our goal of creating a first class community asset in Westhill. We are very grateful to The Tudor Trust and Aberdeen Charitable Foundation whose contributions have made the new Charity Development Manager role possible.”

In this role Michael will be responsible for driving forward the charity’s ambitious plans to create a vibrant community centre for the provision of services to people with disabilities, their families and carers, and address the need for enhanced indoor and outdoor play and recreational facilities. Ellie’s appointment significantly strengthens the charity’s capabilities to delivery the quality services they have become known for.

Michael hails from Shetland and maintains close contact with the islands. He has had a successful and varied business career including six years as Head of Finance and Support Services with Cornerstone Community Care in Aberdeen. He is a non-executive director of Instant Neighbour Charity, Aberdeen and a former non-executive director of Aberdeen Harbour Board.

Ellie first visited SensationALL in 2015 to photograph the sensory room for her final collection of work at Gray’s School of Art. Her brother has Autism and Ellie helped care for him from a young age, she has worked as a support worker for over two years and her work with textiles looks at the unique relationship people with Autism have with their environment, particularly on sensory stimulation.

Michael Goodlad says, “I am delighted to join SensationALL and to be able to contribute to their ambitious plans. I am impressed with how much they have achieved in the last five years and can already appreciate the dedication and vision of the existing staff, directors and volunteers.”

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Aberdeen and Celtic fans come together for SensationALL

Football fans at the recent game between Aberdeen and Celtic at Pittodrie dug deep to raise more than £1,500 for Westhill based charity SensationALL, at AFC’s first ever joint can collection involving both sets of supporters.

Aberdeen FC Community Trust (AFCCT) organised the collection along with the Celtic FC Foundation (CFCF) to raise the profile of SensationALL and help the charity with their fundraising campaign to support families living with Autism, learning difficulties and disabilities.

Both AFCCT and CFCF are committed to improving the lives of those in their communities with both organisations providing assistance to people with Autism.

Aberdeen FC was named Scotland’s first Autism Friendly Football Club earlier this year in recognition of the steps the club and AFCCT have taken to make the match-day experience user-friendly for all and CFCF’s award-winning ‘Ability Counts’ programme includes projects designed to improve the lives of people living with Autism.

Ally Prockter, chief executive of AFCCT said he is proud that both sides came together for the charity.

“We are extremely grateful for the generosity demonstrated by Aberdeen and Celtic fans at the match. While it’s all about the competition on the pitch, both teams are united by their community values and dedication to improving the lives of others through AFCCT and CFCF.

“SensationALL is a very deserving charity which helps those with multiple support needs and their families across the North-east by providing therapeutic sensory activities and support networks, training in therapeutic techniques and activities and opportunities for play and social integration.”

Tony Hamilton, Chief Executive of Celtic FC Foundation added: “I’m delighted that this was a success. We’ve visited the SensationALL project and it fits in perfectly with what we’re doing with Ability Counts. I hope it goes from strength to strength.”

Thanks to support from a syndicate of North-east entrepreneurs, AFCCT’s mascot Donny the Sheep will sport SensationALL on his shirt for the rest of the 2017/18 season.

Bob McCracken, Chairman of SensationALL’s Board of Trustees said: “We are delighted to be associated with two such prominent charities and hope that we can build on this initiative for the benefit of the communities in which we work”

AFCCT operates as a charity independently of Aberdeen Football Club but works closely with North-east local authorities and many other organisations including the Life Changes Trust, NHS Grampian, Sport Aberdeen, Police Scotland, Aberdeen Sports Village and other members of the Active Aberdeen Partnership.

Aberdeen Football Club is proposing to build a new community sports campus and stadium with on-site training and AFCCT facilities at Kingsford, near Westhill.

The 25-hectare site would see the construction of the largest new-build stadium in Scotland in 100 years and is vital for AFC to achieve a successful and sustainable future and to maximise its socio-economic contribution to the city and wider region.

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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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Top tips for going back-to-school

As the summer holidays draw to a close, the anticipation for the start of school grows. For parents and children alike, the start of school, and all that will come in the first term, can be more than daunting.

Getting used to a new teacher, finding the way around school again, following routines and school structures (which had been long forgotten in the North East summer sunshine or rain) and catching up with friends.

It is a busy and exhausting time for any child, but for those with additional or multiple support needs (ASN/MSNs) it can be especially draining.

Here at SensationALL, we have had our thinking caps on to come up with some of our TOP TIPS for going back to school.

1. Explore Emotions

This is a difficult one to address, but as important as getting the school bag ready and uniform on.

Children with MSNs may feel that they are the only one finding it hard, the only one who doesn’t fit in, the only one forgetting their pencil, jotter, gym kit or the only one feeling scared. The idea of being “the only one” is as untrue as there being a “perfect person”.

Explore the concerns, worries and challenges your child may have: relieving anxieties by talking through situations, particularly those relating to socializing and making new friends.

Discuss and share practical ways they can try to address these concerns. Highlight that their peers are likely to feel the same. They won’t be “the only one” and building awareness that others may feel the same can bring about feelings of inclusion and comfort.

2. Get familiar

For children with sensory sensitivities it is really important to put in the prep work ahead of the school term starting.

Try on new uniforms, cut out labels if required, wash them a few times so they are familiar and soft and build up tolerance by wearing them around the house. This goes for new school shoes too!

Don’t stop at clothing and shoes, try out any new items like water bottles, lunch boxes, school bags, pencil cases etc.

The more familiar and tolerant your child is to the items which will be a constant throughout their school days, hopefully the better they can cope with the range of new sensory inputs they will experience. Remember to include any calming strategy/resource they might have.

3. Organisation

Whether you are helping an older child develop their organisational skills, or you’re organising for a younger child, this will help with the ease of transitioning back into the school day.

Practice getting the bag organised the week before, packed lunch, lunch card, gym kit, use visuals and checklists where appropriate. The smoother the morning operation runs, the lower the stress and anxiety levels all round!

For any child, turning up to school and finding out you’ve forgotten something can cause a great deal of distress and impact learning. Older children should take a very active part in organising themselves for school as this will contribute towards being more independent, and learning these skills young builds confidence and a great foundation for later.

4. Go along beforehand

If your child is starting at a new school, and/or finds settling into different environments challenging, get in contact with the school to go along the week before if possible.

This can be really helpful if physical disability presents an added worry to the child, for example, getting through the corridors, around the playground, getting to the lunch hall and very importantly to most children, actually getting lunch!!!

Identifying safe or quiet areas can also help alleviate anxiety and help develop proactive It can act as a trial run before the hustle and bustle, a good opportunity to familiarise and to try out different strategies to help your child throughout the school day.

5. Visual structure

Try putting together a picture wall chart for home, showing your child each day or the week ahead, what’s expected on each day, i.e. gym or maths or reading. After school activities can go up here if there are any and weekend ones too.

This can help children see the “bigger picture”, that maybe Tuesday isn’t a great day, but on Thursday they get to go to the gym hall or book store. A week can seem a long time, but breaking it down into days can help your child know what to expect and look forward to the days ahead.

6. Recap the positives

At the end the day, before lights out and bed, try recapping on the day’s positives, like “You did really well with completing your homework”, or even if the positive is a general, “You went to school today”. Find the positive and let it be the last thing to go through their head before drifting off to sleep. This will prepare and support the next day.


It goes without saying that school transitions can be anxiety provoking and challenging and usually a learning curve for all. A few basic strategies can sometimes make all the difference. Encouragement and enthusiasm can be key to reassurance and confidence building.

We hope the ‘back to school’ transition goes smoothly and we are looking forward to hearing about it! #SensationALL

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It’s a SensationALL summer!

The summer holidays are just around the corner and we have a jam packed timetable of summer activities. Here’s what’s happening over the holidays, keep up to date on a weekly basis via our Facebook page or sign up to our monthly enewsletter. See you at the SensationALL summer!

The SingAlong Cinema

We have a big screen, bean bags and comfy seating for watching and singing along to the films! Make your own popcorn and popcorn holders too. £15 per film.

Beauty and the Beast on Monday 17th July from 2.00pm to 4.30pm
Hairspray on Monday 14th August from 2.00pm to 4.30pm

Sensory Treasure Hunt

Grab your pirate hat and map and follow the sensory clues to find the hidden treasure! £15 and includes a hidden treasure.
Tuesday 18th July from 10.30am to 12.30pm

Dance and Disco

It’s the SensationALL summer disco and dance-a-long! Glowsticks, disco music and dance-along-videos. £15 and includes a snack.

Wednesday 19th July from 4.00pm to 6.00pm

Wednesday 16th August from  4.00pm to 6.00pm

Under the Sea Music Therapy Session
A favourite for the children! Under the sea crafts, musical instruments and songs. £15 and includes a snack.

Thursday 20th July from 2.00pm to 4.00pm

Up in the Sky Music Therapy Session
We went Under the Sea, time to travel Up in the Sky with a themed-music therapy session with crafts and musical instruments. £15 and includes a snack.

Thursday 10th August from 2.00pm to 4.00pm

Lego/board game groups

Join the SensationALL team for some lego and board games. £5 per child, per session.
Monday 24th July  from 2.00pm to 3.00pm

Monday 31st July from 2.00 to 3.00pm.  

Outdoor Games Group

Looking for sunshine for our Outdoor Games Group! £10 to join in the outdoor games morning session.
Friday 3rd August from 10.30am to 12.30pm

See you at the SensationALL summer!

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