A parents' workshop was organized at Handimachal on the 26th October, the topic being “Making Sense of the Senses’’. The target audience were parents of the children who have been diagnosed to be on the Autism Spectrum and children with Sensory Processing Dysfunction.
We had three goals in mind behind organizing this, first of its kind hands on training workshop for parents. First being, to give parents a firsthand glimpse of experience of what their children go through in their day to day life. Second, to explain the basics of Sensory Processing Dysfunction and help them plan a home program for their children with this new understanding. Third, to give parents a platform to share, interact and empathize with each other and introduce them to the idea of forming a parents' organization to advocate for the needs and rights of the special needs children of the valley.
For the parents to understand what their children experience in their environment, we had them do an activity. The parents were pretty excited to do the fun activity. Little did they know what was in store for them!? The parents were expected to be the good students; they expect their children to be. They had to go in room, with a pen and a note pad and were instructed to copy the note from the board. They were given 10 min to do the same. The parents were then asked to go in another room, but there was a twist in this one. The room now was a stimulated set up of sensory overload. We had some revolving disco lights, lit up the dark room. There were sounds playing in the room, with a considerable loud volume. Sounds of children crying and shouting in the classroom and playground, traffic signal sounds, sound of a busy market area, pressure cooker blowing sounds etc, sounds which we find in our natural environment. We then got different kind of smells and odors sprayed in the room. So basically the room was overloaded with sensory stimulations. The parents had to now go in this environment and copy the notes. But the notes this time around were of the English font, the way dyslexic children tend to see the words. They were given 15 min to do the task.
After the activity, some of the parents had headache, all of them couldn’t not or found it extremely difficult to read the text, and they found it difficult to communicate with each other. They wanted to get out of the room as soon as possible. After de-briefing them about the activity, the parents were overwhelmed by the experience. It made them understand their child’s condition better and feel more empathetic with their child. One mother said, that she feels guilty of losing her temper so easily on her daughter who would not read properly. One father said, he would now look at his son in a different light.
Now that the parents had a better idea about their child’s condition, the next step was to help them understand the basics of sensory integration dysfunctions and what they can do to make it a little easier for their children. A discussion on all the 7 senses, the nature of their dysfunction and what intervention can be done was discussed in a very interactive manner. The parents had lots to share and could problem solve by relating to each other conditions. “Sensory Diet” being the prime topic, the parents were then given strategies and guidelines to manage their children. The “Aahh’’ moment each time the parents made sense of their child’s behaviors was priceless!
The work shop was concluded by our project co-ordinator Benoni, who spoke to the parents about coming together to share, network and form a parents' organization to be able to advocate for the better future of the special need children of the valley. A need of a parents' organization is of outmost importance for advocacy of the needs and rights of these children, to liaise with government agencies, schools, hospitals and the community and society at large. The parents' organization will be supported by us, but the parents will take a front stand in being the face and voice for these children.
A big thank you to all my team members, for their enthusiasm and help to put the workshop in place, for helping in organizing the rooms and managing the children when their parents were for a change busy attending a class. One more better day at Handimachal and my bestest, undoubtedly!!! All smiles!!!
Shruti More, OT
29 October 2013
Slideshow available by clicking on the picture below