“Sense-Aware.” Student Occupational Therapists Start Community Project!

Hello, we are two second year Occupational Therapy students at Plymouth University in the South-West of England. After attending the Royal College of Occupational Therapy conference in June, we were inspired to bring our learning to our local community in a creative way. This led to the development of our project ‘Sense-Aware’!

We both have experience with supporting people with Autism and associated mental health conditions. Currently, we enable young people to attend ‘Rooted’ – a group run by Routeways who are a local Plymouth charity supporting children, young people and their families to overcome disadvantage. ‘Rooted’ facilitates young people’s engagement in outdoor activities, gardening, baking and crafts whilst teaching them social skills and offering them emotional support.

Through attending the group with service users, we recognised that the premises did not have somewhere for young people to spend time when they felt overwhelmed or needed space. In line with Routeways current focus to make the group accessible for young people with Autism, we drew inspiration from a session at the conference on sensory-circuits; and decided to create the project ‘Sense-Aware’ to build this space.

The aim of the ‘Sense-Aware’ project was to research and fundraise for a range of sensory equipment, to educate others about the importance of supporting and managing an individual’s sensory needs within this population. The final aim was to set up a sensory room within the already existing ‘Rooted’ group to benefit those with Autism and facilitate their engagement in a range of activities.

After extensively researching, attending study days and meeting with professionals with first-hand experience in the field, we were able to ascertain a sense of direction for the project. This led us to the fun part – fundraising! We created a gofundme page, got up super early for car boot sales, baked lots of cakes to sell at group and trekked across Dartmoor, which all totalled over £500!! With this, we have managed to purchase lots of equipment and toys, but has also allowed us to create the possibility of staff, carer and parent training within sensory based intervention.  We have also recruited a regular volunteer, Alannah, who will provide 1:1 support for service users who would benefit from having that support in a group setting. Currently in the pipeline is the possibility of collaborating with a Paediatric Occupational Therapist to provide cost-effective assessments for sensory requirements, and provide clinical supervision for our team.

From our experience, we would like to encourage other students to act on their interests and not be discouraged by their level of study. This project has given us insight into our future career and provided endless opportunities. We are massively grateful for everyone who has supported us through this adventure. We would like to pass special thanks to Sam Turner, our lecturer and mentor throughout this process.

Written by Jade & Rachel from Sense-Aware. Posted on their behalf by Charlotte (site admin)

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