What is your Sensory Space? by Kellie Jennings, Jigsaw Occupational Therapy

Being an Paediatric Occupational Therapist I often get the impression that both children and adults alike love visiting our sensory space. At our clinic space we get endless amounts of comments about how ‘magical’ the sensory room is, and how people would just ‘love to take it home’ and I always tell people, we’ll you can! This often leads to me asking ‘well, whats your sensory space?, what sensory sanctuary would you choose over all the others’. It was just yesterday when a young lady was laying in the Buddy Boat swing filled with white pearl like Ball Pit Balls. As she submerged herself under the balls it resembled the most tranquil of bubble baths. Her expression said it all, that was definitely her ‘sensory space’. I must be honest, I know exactly how marvellous it feels as I’ve spent some time in the Buddy Boat surrounded by the ball pit balls a few times myself. You can picture it now, after a day of therapy sessions filled with fun, laughter and endless amounts of energy I love to take a few minutes in this comforting bubble bath myself. Just as satisfying and relaxing is the Sensory Shaker, although its name ‘shaker’ suggests that it may not be the most calming, this isn’t true. The Sensory Shaker is an oversized bag that, when filled with balls, it provides sensational tactile input. Without movement, the Sensory Shaker provides a small, enclosed den, the perfect sensory space.

Your special sensory space can range from the largest of swings, to the smallest and most simple of things. I’ve discovered in my time that it doesn’t matter your age, we all need that moment when we inhale for a deep breath and exhale with a big ‘aghhhh’ as we experience that state of calm relaxation. That’s when you know your sensory system is well and truly regulated and you’ve found that that special sensory space. Its not always just the Children who visit that get a dose of sensory rich stimulation, so many parents often walk away feeling a little more regulated that when they arrived. I love to surprise parents by offering them the chance to simply take a seat as we begin to engage in discussion, and suddenly as they sit down in the Zuma Rocker chair you hear an ‘owwww, well that’s nice’. They’ve started a gentle rock as they sit back and enjoy that simple sensory space. The Zuma Rocker is so simple in its appearance and looks just like a typical class chair, however it secretly offers the movement many of us need to stay alert and pay attention, in a safe and non-disruptive way. It’s great for circle time, reading and relaxing. While we may all benefit from the calming and organising motion of the Zuma Rocker, children who have specific sensory needs may show an especially positive response, to this simple sensory space.

It’s important to create that safe and calming sensory space at home. I am forever saying to parents as they express an excited interest in the range of equipment we have available “you can always create one at home”. I often find young children are the true experts in using their wonderful imaginations to create the most magical sensory spaces. I’ve had many children crawl into small spaces and hide under all sorts of things to create the ultimate dark den sensory space. Many make their way into The Big Top, a giant spinning dish where you can curl up and rock gently. I like to add The Mohu Cover blanket. The Mohu Cover is a comforter made of soft textures to calm and soothe, its designed to cover a Small Southpaw Weighted Blanket, which then offers a combination of tactile and proprioceptive/ deep pressure from the Weighted Blanket.

Particularly those with visual sensitivities seek that opportunity to access a sensory space that has limited to no visual stimuli. Shutting out the stimuli that’s becoming overloading is a way of self-regulating. On arrival to his therapy session a young man I regularly see often creeps into the Inflatable Barrel Kit, a large stack of soft tubes which act as a perfect dark den, try adding a little subtle light to a dark den to create a calm and magical feel.

When it comes to swings and suspension equipment I always see that almost instant calming effect from the Cuddle Swing. I’ve seen both young children and adults suddenly relax into a calm and regulated state of arousal as they allow their bodies to be hugged by the Cuddle Swing. It provides such calming and organising input through its deep touch pressure and vestibular stimulation that it’s a true favourite sensory space, add a snuggle with one of the irresistibly cute weighted cuddle wrap such as the Weighted Dog or Kitty.

At the end of my therapy sessions I often encourage sometime in the Body Sox. If you’re not sure what your sensory space is, I urge everyone to not be afraid and squeeze your body in and just stretch. Perhaps it’s been an energy filled therapy session with tons of vestibular stimuli and it’s time to organise and regulate to that ‘just right’ level of arousal. The Body Sox promotes ultimate body awareness and because the material is see-through, you can be safe knowing you can see what’s going on around you.

So take some time to think about your sensory space and support your child or client to discover theirs.

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