Why SensationALL use Sensory Stories…

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

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

A Magic Carpet Journey!

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

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

Last week we visited an Arabian Bazar…

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

Our Arabian journey was a huge success:

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

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

   

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SensationALL 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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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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How to create a sensory space on a budget

Many people have the perception that designing and creating a dedicated sensory space can be unachievable due to space and financial restraints, but this isn’t necessarily the case. You can achieve so much regardless of the amount of space you have, or the amount of money you have available to spend. We’ve pulled together some ideas that will get the ball rolling for your superb new sensory space.

Space need not be an issue

The term ‘sensory room’ can be a little daunting, as it suggests an entire room is required. But smaller sensory spaces can be equally effective, and much more practical for most families.

Take a look at the space you do have available, and think about how you could make it perfect for your loved one. Is there a corner you could transform into a dedicated sensory space, or perhaps a spacious cupboard that you could convert?

If you’re only converting a portion of a room, make sure to purchase some heavy material to hang like a curtain. This adds a sense of privacy and ownership, and the heavier material will help reduce sound interference, which is incredibly important.

Sensory items don’t have to break the bank

Carefully selecting items for this space is important, as each person and their needs are unique. The first thing to do is observe what items and activities they are most drawn to during their ‘free-play’ or a sensory based session, or with their therapist, and replicate this into your own space.

We know so many recommended items for home sensory rooms can be pricey, but we’ve pulled together some low-cost alternatives:

  • While swings and trampolines can be effective additions to any sensory space, they can also come with a hefty price tag. A good alternative can be a rocking chair or exercise ball or Buso ball, which can promote vestibular stimulation for a fraction of the price.
  • Adding a glow to your space does not need to be expensive – you can get your hands on some cheap fairy-lights, fibre optic space lights, rope or LED lights, net lighting and mini projectors or disco dome-lighting, and these can totally transform your space. Or what about digging out your twinkling Christmas lights from the loft? These would also work!
  • Tactile materials can be gathered from everyday items such as pot scrubbers, carpet or material squares, or even knitted squares in different wool textures. Using a tray with dried ingredients, such as pasta, cereal, sand, water and shaving foam or cream, jelly, cornflour mix or angel delight if they will mouth items. You can also add different textures to the foam etc. to add interest. Using sealed bottles, bags or containers of coloured gel/water or rice to hide items of interest in, such as toy figures/lego/pompoms etc. or using highlighter pens to colour water, will make this fluorescent under a UV lamp or torch.
  • Cause & effect toys are great especially if they will move, spin, light up or make a sound. Some are activated by push/pull actions which are ideal for early learners. As they develop to more complex ‘electrical’ gadgets/items such as lighting effects/fans/vibration mats or similar, then it may be worth considering a ‘switch adapter controller’. This allows any mains electrical equipment to be operated safely through a simple switch device.
  • Don’t be afraid to do a spot of DIY! Hand crafting items for your sensory area can save you money, and provide fun for you both. And the list of things you can make is endless, from sensory boards and blocks, to glitter bottles and sensory bags.

Pinterest can be your best friend

Pinterest is a fantastic tool to find clever and unique ideas for your sensory space, and can provide step-by-step guides for creating things.

You can search for sensory room ideas and find a whole host of pins from people across the world. Here’s a great board that we came across: https://uk.pinterest.com/marmarhughes/cheap-sensory-room-ideas/.

The important thing to remember is that building the perfect sensory area is an ongoing process, and you will be constantly building and adding to it to make it better, and suit the evolving needs of your loved one. So don’t get disheartened by high costs or lack of space – there are so many positive things you can do that will have huge benefits.

Here at SensationALL we run regular training workshops and sensory sessions to help understand why sensory experiences are so important for many of our children and adults with multiple support needs. We love to share our experience and ideas on helping to meet your individual’s unique sensory needs.

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