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.