Sensory awareness groups

We learn about the world constantly through our senses and by interacting with it. This process of exploration and learning starts in childhood and continues throughout our lives. However, people with learning difficulties may not have had the same opportunities to explore and interact with their environment, and people with acquired brain injuries may need to repeat some of these learning experiences.

At The Richardson Partnership for Care, we have recently introduced sensory awareness sessions to the programme of group sessions that we run for our service users each week. They are designed to provide the opportunity for service users to use their senses to learn about and interact more meaningfully with the world.

The sensory awareness course starts with an introduction to the five senses – or methods of perception: sight, taste, smell, touch and sound. Then each session explores one of the senses in more detail, presenting several items to each member of the group and allowing them to become accustomed to their particular properties and the differences between them. We use examples that the service users will find in their everyday lives, including food and drink or items from the home or garden, helping them to embrace their own environment.

The service users can benefit from the sessions in many different ways. The programme aims to:

  • Gain, maintain and/or increase service user abilities to receive and differentiate sensory stimuli
  • Recognise the five senses of the body
  • Stimulate the service user’s appropriate response of sensory experience
  • Provide a multi-sensory experience or single sensory focus, simply by adapting the lighting, sounds and textures to the specific needs of the service user
  • Assist service users to gain the maximum pleasure from the activity
  • Develop the service user’s awareness of the different sensory experiences
  • Provide opportunities for social interaction
  • Increase awareness of own social skills and others around us
  • Help in the development of appropriate relationships
  • Increase confidence and self-esteem when interacting with others

The sessions are evaluated using group recording forms and informal assessments so that the needs and progress of each individual can be properly met and understood. This is in addition to the wider monitoring of service users’ rehabilitation progress.

The sensory garden at 8 Kingsthorpe Grove

The sensory garden at 8 Kingsthorpe Grove

There is No Such Thing As A Minor Brain Injury | UKABIF Expert Seminar

Wendy Coleman | Homes Manager - Duston RdWendy Coleman, ( Home Manager, Duston Rd) attended the UKABIF expert seminar day in October last year and really enjoyed the talks that were presented for the day. The topics that were covered were:

  • Endocrine Problems in Acquired Brain Injury

(by Prof. Mike Barnes, Chair of UKABIF & Professor of Neurological Rehabilitation, Hunters Moor Neurorehabilitation)

  • Vestibular Dysfunction

(by Dr Ruth Kent Consultant and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Rehabilitation Medicine, Pinderfields General Hospital, Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust, Academic Unit of Musculoskeletal and Rehabilitation Medicine)

  • What you see isn’t always what you get (Structured testing and functioning in the real world)

(by Jayne Brake, an Occupational Therapy Manager and Jackie Parker, Director at J S Parker – a Specialist Brain and Spinal Injury Case management and Rehabilitation Services)

  • Persuading Funders and Service Providers to Do Their Duty

(by Louis Browne, Barrister, Exchange Chambers)

  • My Story

(by Craig Blackie, sharing his story of his personal struggle with the trivialisation of the ‘hidden’ disabilities resulting from his brain injury)

  • The impact of brain injury: discovering the nature and extent of an injury’s effects

(by Bill Braithwaite, QC, Exchange Chambers)

Wendy said that the bits that stood out for her were the definitions of “executive functions” and “executive control”. Executive functions are central processes that are most intimately involved in giving organisation and order to our actions and behaviours.  They have been compared to the maestro who conducts an orchestra – pulling everything together to work.  It is essentially the ability to organise thoughts and work to create plans and successfully execute them to manage the administrative functions of one’s life.

Executive control, on the other hand, is the capacity to reflect on your situation and life to evaluate what is working and what is not in order to formulate plans of action and to learn to carry out such plans successfully. It also includes the capacity to learn from mistakes so that we don’t make the same ones over and over again.

Situations where executive functioning are essential are:

  • Those that involve planning or decision making
  • Those that involve correction
  • Dangerous or technically difficult situations
  • Those that require overcoming a strong habitual response or resisting temptation

What Wendy really liked about this event, was that it was a relatively small event which really gave everyone a chance to not only meet and hear from some real experts from the field of brain injury, but to also have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the issues raised.


All of our staff attend regular events to retain their level of professional knowledge in the field that we are in (specialist residential care for adults with an acquired brain injury and/or learning difficulties). Each Home Manager (particularly) is active in attending brain injury or learning difficulty professional seminars/events and ensure that they are also in touch with the local community and professional groups to keep RPC at the forefront of our industry.