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.

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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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We get by with a little help from our friends!

It’s Volunteers Week in Scotland and we have taken the chance to give our volunteers an extra thank you! The SensationALL team couldn’t do what they do without their help. Volunteering for us comes in many shapes and sizes – you can give your time (even an hour for a play session is a massive help), you can give your time from your business (not sure if you have noticed we are in the process of a massive renovation project…hint, hint), you can help with set ups, tidy ups, making tea, running / cycling for us in charity events or donations! Continue reading

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Apache donation to fund new state-of-the-art sensory room

Kingswells-based, Apache North Sea Limited, has donated £30,000 to SensationALL for the renovation and repurposing of our sensory room.

As part of Apache’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme, they have awarded the charity funds for the design and installation of a new sensory room.   The donation will go towards the renovation and repurposing of the Sensory room, transforming the space into a state-of-the-art, interactive area designed around user needs. Continue reading

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Christmas With Multiple Support Needs: 10 Top Tips For Avoiding Stress This Festive Season

christmas-with-multiple-support-needs-10-tips-for-avoiding-stress-this-festive-season

christmas-with-multiple-support-needs-10-tips-for-avoiding-stress-this-festive-season

1. Keep routines going to avoid the hype of the “countdown” to Christmas

Whilst some may cope with the “countdown to Christmas”, knowing your child, you may find it easier to play this down if it is likely to increase their stress. Either way, it is very hard to ignore these days when it is on TV, in the shops and in schools, so try to keep as many of their routines going as possible over this period.

2. Plan for when things get too much

Plan for your child’s potential behaviour triggers, consider what can be avoided or reduced to a minimum, and think about where they can go or what they can do if things get too much. It can be a very overstimulating day, with lots of ‘new things’ to deal with, so plan some quiet, low-stimulus times throughout the day.

3. Set aside time for them to do what THEY enjoy

Our version of enjoyment might be quite different from our child’s, so try to factor in times where they can engage in their own interests.

4. Allow them to sit back and watch

Your child may be happier watching the larger family group activities from a periphery, such as having their Christmas dinner on a small table nearby, if they struggle with too many people in close proximity.

5. Help family members choose suitable presents

Help family members choose suitable presents that match your child’s interests or developmental stage. Also, let them know you may not open them all on Christmas day, as this may be overwhelming.

Some useful ideas for sensory items may be found on Special Needs Toys. For wheelchair users, try Have Wheelchair Will Travel‘s Christmas gift ideas, and for children with multiple and complex needs there are some excellent sensory stories created by Scope storybooks for special needs children. There are also some fun and educational apps for phones and tablets.

If family members are struggling to think of ideas, you could always suggest an afternoon or evening of babysitting, to allow you time to go for a meal, cinema, spa or similar treat.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Better to have a happy relaxed family day than worry about having everything perfect. The people that love and care about you will understand what is important!

7. Accept offers of help and make life easier for yourself

Take advantage of any shortcuts or offers of help with catering, shopping online or looking after children on the day. Remember, if your child only eats certain foods then this is not the day to try to change his/her diet, so have on offer what they will eat.

8. Look after yourselves!

Take some time to recharge your batteries and to relax! Check out some mindfulness and relaxation techniques or go for a walk, as physical exercise is excellent at de-stressing. Treat yourself to some time out!

9. Prepare a visual timetable or short Social Story

Prepare a visual timetable for the day or the holiday if this will help your child know the plans for each day and thereby reduce their anxiety or stress. Making a short Social Story about Christmas can also help them learn and understand what will be happening and can suggest some coping strategies for the potential ‘trigger points’. Here are some great resources from The Success Box.

10. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

Don’t set your expectations too high and put pressure on yourself to do too much over the holiday period. Have fun and enjoy yourself, as it is the simple things in life that are most important.

Merry Christmas from everyone at SensationALL!

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