Above and Beyond

Three brightly coloured homemade sensory boards lying flat on the floor.
A selection of homemade sensory boards.

This is an uncertain time for everyone including the adults, children and families that Sense supports. A break of structure and not seeing familiar faces regularly can have devastating effects on the people we support which, in turn, affects the whole family. Sense staff are finding new, innovative and creative ways to provide much needed support and care. Take our services in Northern Ireland, for example. Maintaining physical distancing in a safe way has not stopped the staff team from being socially active in the lives of the people they support.

It is almost difficult to know where to begin. The Sense Centre – Carrickfergus, run by Kathryn Robinson, provided a lunch club for the people they support. This club, which took place three days a week, was an essential moment in the week for the people supported as it provided not just a necessary meal but some much needed social interaction. For families, it was one less thing to think about. It gave parents time for work, socialising or spending time with other member of their family.

Since the start of the lock down, the staff members at Sense Centre – Carrickfergus have been working to ensure that the lunch club goes ahead as normal by cooking and distributing up to 36 meals every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. For the older people on the service, this is lifeline as they depend on these meals. This may also be the only time they get to interact (at a distance) with another human being.

For families, these meals provide some much-needed respite. Providing 24-hour care is a difficult job without having to run a household simultaneously. These meals provide one less thing for the families to think about. If only for a moment. On a Friday, three meals are sent to everyone on the list to help provide food over the weekend.

“Thank you so much for the food today. I really can’t thank you all enough!”

Adapting our support

When they aren’t cooking or baking (Tuesday and Friday are baking days), the staff are making their own face masks. Soon after the lock down, there was a shortage of personal protective equipment in the area, so the staff team took it upon themselves to make their own. Using the sewing machines at the service and a little bit of knowhow, the staff team were ensuring their safety and the safety of the people they continue to support.

Not too far away, Deputy Manager Amanda Johnston, and her team have been supporting children and families who usually attend the Sense Family Centre – Newtownabbey. While technology has been vital in providing this support, a lot of the specialist equipment remains at the centre. To overcome this, the staff team have been working tirelessly to put together resource boxes for the families containing sensory toys, games and equipment. Scented playdough, coloured pasta and light up bouncy balls gives the children the much-needed stimulation that they need.

“Thank you so much for the fun sensory box. I can’t wait to work with him on it tomorrow, he will love it! It makes such a difference and we really appreciate everything you do”

A row of boxes filed with sensory toys and other resources ready to be sent out to families.
Some of the resource boxes that have been put together by Sense staff.

However, this specialist equipment can only go so far without the specialist support that the staff provides. Zoom sessions and regular phone calls help the staff to get regular updates from the families and tailor the support that they provide. The staff team have been filming themselves running sessions such as song time and posting them in a closed Facebook group which the families can access.

“Wow I wasn’t expecting that delivery, thank you very much. I thought the first delivery was the only delivery. Just wow thanks, it is amazing and such a big help we really appreciate it thank you.”

A member of the Sense staff team is kneeling on the floor surrounded by sensory toys.
The Sense staff team have included a variety of sensory toys in their resource boxes.

The quick reactions and adaptability of the Sense staff teams show how much they truly care about the people that they support. The tireless work they are all doing providing meals, support and a friendly face has been a lifeline to everyone that they support and while the future is uncertain, Sense Northern Ireland remain as dedicated as ever.

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