On Sunday 30th March Scarlett, Sonny and I attended the National Blind Children’s Society event at The Space Centre in Preston. The National Blind Children’s Society provide a whole host of great events for children with a sight problem across the UK. This particular event gives parents a great chance to meet with other local families and give the children a chance to have a play in a wonderfully equip and controlled environment.
“It is available exclusively to NBCS on various Sundays from 11.30am to 12.30pm throughout the year for families of children with visual impairment, including any sighted brothers and sisters.
Come and join us, at no charge, for safe, soft play and the chance to socialise with other families, using the special equipment, a slide, ball pool, hammock, bubble tubes, water bed and lots of interactive tactile toys all within a specialist lighting environment.”- http://www.nbcs.org.uk/Event/space-days
Scarlett and Sonny loved The Space Centre immediately. Scarlett is already a massive fan of sensory rooms, she struggles in ‘run of the mill’ type pre-school environments- our recent trip to Legoland Manchester was a prime example. In theory the ‘hands-on’ interactive nature of Legoland would have made it a great place to visit, but unfortunately, as much thought as possible in choosing this type of experience for her can not account for one thing I am unable to monitor or control…. the noise.
Scarlett has become increasingly sensitive to sound, and it is having a detrimental effect on her ability to enjoy such experiences. Throughout the week I try to take Scarlett to noisy places, I think perhaps it might be a good way to desensitise her this. I have noticed a pattern developing with noisy environments, that she likes to visit, that we frequent regularly, although she dislikes the sounds she is building coping mechanisms.
- Covering one ear with her hand whilst she eats with the other (restaurant favourite)
- Pushing on something or being led by something that is in motion (shopping trolly, holding on to pram whilst moving)
- Finding something to bang on that provides auditory and vibration stimulation (glass windows- good in shops, things that aren’t completely fixed to the ground or have an element of moving, all things metal)
- Singing (when Scarlett is distressed she sings, this is a self calming measure used continually- aided by me accompanying the singing.
- Pram and weighted blanket (good when going somewhere with lots of people running around and noise, with lots of walking involved)
Scarlett has naturally grown these defense mechanisms and with careful observations by myself I find that I can promote these self-created psychological defensense in order for her to reach a level of calm quicker.
For example, when I attend a place I assume will be loud I cover her ears before she has to experience the noise at the high level, this helps her to arrive ‘calm’ and in turn remain ‘calm’. In an ideal world I would have anywhere that we visit nice and quiet upon arrival, therefore she can adjust to the environment first, then cope with the additional issues that come along with the environment second.
Scarlett likes to have what I describe as a ‘warming up’ period. This period is best orchestrated in a quiet fashion where she isn’t being banged into.
When this isn’t possible, such as the Legoland Manchester trip, I found using the pram and the weighted blanket helped her to remain calm, she covered her own ears throughout and the blanket gave her additional security. Once we had been there for a while Scarlett then emerged from the pram, once adjusted to the sounds and began to enjoy the experience. Firstly, she held on the the pram as I pushed it. This gave her the security of a fixed point to hold on to and she likes being led by the pram, once this was over Scarlett began to explore further a field and began to enjoy her time.
Singing to Scarlett helps massively in a range of settings, she often starts the song in rather a frustrated tone of voice, but is settled by the duet.
A visit to Argos at the weekend, is something that can be a difficult time for her, we have to stay still, I can physically comfort her as my hands are full and we had no pram. Placing her by something near to me which she can bang and sing on, gives her the much needed sensory stimulation that she can hone in on and also a fixed point for her. She searches for something that offers her this, if I can identify this early on a place her there, mummies and Scarlett’s trip out is a much happier one!
I suppose with this post I wanted to demonstrate how different places can evoke a range of responses, I believe avoiding potential ‘break-down’ zones is not a good approach to take and with my continuation of introducing her to these places her self-calming behaviour has independently emerged and now I just help Scarlett to cultivate it and use it effectively so that she isn’t afraid of anything.
Its great that lots of wonderful organisations and charities run events like the NBCS Space Centre Day, as this from start to finish was an excursion that required no-self calming skills…. and Scarlett, Sonny and Mummy were just free to enjoy the day!