Sensory Play & Special Needs - Guest Blog by Daisy Whitbread
Special Needs and Sensory Play
When Teddy didn’t meet his milestones, medical professionals dismissed my worries as he was premature and would probably need more time. Doubts continued to niggle away, but time and time again I was dismissed as an over-anxious first-time mum. Aged 9 months, an emergency MRI scan confirmed CVI (Cortical Visual Impairment) and Cerebral Palsy. On the day of those results, I knew my life was going to change, but sitting in the hospital café all I saw was gloom and disappointment, struggle and sadness. How wrong I was!
We very quickly began to meet the people who are instrumental in Ted’s progress. Those people taught me how to interact with my baby, how to encourage him to develop his senses and how to build his, and my own, confidence.
Sensory play was, and is, by far the greatest tool in my toolbox. When Ted was very small, I dismissed a lot of toys because he didn’t respond to them – he just couldn’t see them and his lack of mobility meant he didn’t ever seek out the toys around him. Slowly, I learnt to dismiss my notions of what he “should” be playing with, and went right back to basics. Different textures, sounds and smells were key. I had to let go of the preconceived ideas I had about what he liked, what he could access and what was suitable. I had to disregard age labels and negative ideas I had about “babyish” toys. I had to allow him to experience as much as possible, so that he could develop his own likes and dislikes, and learn not to be scared of new things. One of the biggest stresses for me when he was little was how scared he was of the unfamiliar, but limiting his understanding of new things was wrong, I needed to teach him how to explore with confidence, regardless of the challenges he faces.
Teddy has just turned three and is one of the happiest, most determined little boys I know. He amazes me every day. Our days are endless hours of blowing and popping bubbles, singing songs whilst hiding under coloured scarves and copying sounds on different instruments. Teddy has clear preferences in his toys and games but I always allow choice (putting toys in a box or bag for him to pick from) and he will try new things with ease and curiosity. He has learnt so much in his three short years and I’m confident that he is going to accomplish great things. I’ll continue to open up new opportunities and experiences for him whilst breaking down any barriers standing in his way. One toy, one experience, one day at a time.