Sensory adventures at the Dominion

Here at Certitude, we use a variety of methods to support and connect with the people around us. We know that no two people are the same and we know that everyone’s needs are different. Sensory objects have proven to be an amazingly simple but effective method of stimulating people, thanks to their versatility and range of benefits.

We first began using them in the Dominion Centre after learning about their advantages through Joanna Grace’s work. The team at the Dominion Centre support people with profound and complex learning disabilities, carefully designing their sessions to support people to develop their motor skills and self-expression. Sensory objects have been massively successful in these sessions so far, and we look forward to working with them more.

What is a sensory object?

A small bag filled with cotton

A sensory object can be a very simple item that is utilised to stimulate different senses. The use of these sensory objects inactivities is known as a ‘sensory adventure’.  Joanna Grace, who is the inspiration for our use of this method, cites yeast extract as an excellent taste experience that she often uses. For us, we use objects as simple as a netted bag filled with cotton, which encourages people to pull the cotton through the gaps of the net, squeeze, throw and misshape the object, stimulating people’s touch senses from the different textures.

Why do we use sensory adventures?

Continuously stimulating our senses through sensory adventures builds nerve connections in the brain pathways over time. This helps with our understanding of the world and enables us to acquire new skills. They also support memory and concentration and a person’s ability and readiness to learn. Some studies show that an engagement in the sensory world can be good for our mental health.

How do we use our adventures?

Yellow perfumed bag of shredded paper

Andrea Ricci, from our Dominion Centre, describes the need for sensory stimulation as “vital for everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing. The success of each sensory experience depends on who it is for and what it is for.” Therefore, it is important that we understand the likes and dislikes of whoever we’re working with. At the Dominion Centre, our team support people with complex and varying disabilities who all benefit from differing approaches.

We use our yellow perfumed bag of shredded paper, containing various textured items, to create the message that amazing things can be hidden in boring places. The hope is that the person we support is actively engaged with the exercise and builds their confidence.

The aim of the plastic beans and water – shown in the photo to the right – is more about cause

Plastic beans and water

and effect. If the plastic is wet it will dissolve. This exercise is about cognition, the ‘now’ and ‘after’, and encourages decision making.

It has been so rewarding to see the effect these techniques have had on people’s mental and physical health, and we’re excited to continue with this work.