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Free theme park tickets for children with disabilities

Merlin’s Magic wand is a worldwide charity which provides free theme park tickets to families of children with disabilities. These days out help families to take some time out of their often stressful lives to create magical memories. Read more and apply here 

Merlins magic wand

Due to the high demand, each family can only apply once. Applications must be made by either parents, guardians or registered organisations, including schools/hospitals and councils.

Tickets are for children aged between 2 and 18

Its 5 years now since we had our Magical day out to Legoland and my kids still talk about it. At the time I wrote “Thank you so much Merlins Magic Wand Charity we have just had a fantastic day out at Legoland Windsor, we were treated like VIP’s the whole day. It was really special x”


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Building Sensory Friendly Spaces

Have you seen these resources for building sensory and ASD friendly environments…

Given up to 90% of young people with ASD have sensory integration difficulties, these resources are a great guide for anyone looking to build or create sensory friendly spaces.

Our own favourite is the Virco Zuma Chair for schools, offices and home – with adult and child sized options.

What is your favourite item for a sensory friendly space?

Here are links to great guidance from architects and others regarding sensory friendly building…

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Research In Practice: Do SI patterns identified in research exist outside a US population?

Patterns of sensory integration difficulties have been studied in the US since the 1970’s.  Many questions exist about if similar patterns exist in cultures and communities outside of the US, and studies are limited. Here is a summary of an important study conducted in South Africa.

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The purpose of the study was to investigate and describe the similarities and differences of patterns of SI dysfunction between children in South Africa and those in the US.

A quantitative, analytical study was conducted on a convenience sample of 223 children who were identified as experiencing sensory integration difficulties. The Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT) were used as the measuring instrument and correlation and factor analyses were applied in order to describe similarities and differences. Consistencies in tests loading on patterns of Visuodyspraxia, Somatodyspraxia, Bilateral Integration and Sequencing dysfunctions and Tactile and Visual Discrimination dysfunctions were found.

This research confirmed similarities in the patterns of dysfunction in children in South Africa and confirmed the value of the SIPT in identifying sensory integration dysfunctions cross-culturally.


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Messy Play 1 – What is messy play and how can it help?

Submitted by guest blogger, Ruth OT

It’s the summer holidays for most schools in England, including my kid’s schools. I’m well known for my love of messy/ tactile play, and summer holidays and messy play are made to go together.

First of all, can I just say that messy play is not just about the sensory input, it’s not a “sensory session”, it’s certainly not a substitute for “sensory integration therapy”?

All play is sensory.

All activity is sensory.

Messy play is a about normal development and learning through a playful activity using tactile experiences and experimentation. It should be fun, it can be intensely therapeutic, and it can form a part of sensory integration therapy session, but overuse of the word “sensory” for activities like this weakens the power of true sensory integration therapy.

Second of all, can I just say that messy play is not a substitute for natural tactile experiences? Messy play is not a substitute for muddy walks, tree climbing, animal handling and other important life and learning experiences. It can scaffold and enable those activities for children who find these experiences difficult to tolerate, but there’s nothing like nature and the great outdoors for kids’ sensory skills.

Here are some of the reasons I love messy play…

It teaches basic cookery skills, but nobody has to actually eat the product

Through making recipes, you can practice opening packages, pouring, measuring, stirring (and holding the bowl still at the same time) and following a recipe. But you don’t have to worry about food hygiene, if the child drops it on the floor, picks their nose, spits, or anything els. You don’t have to pretend it’s delicious. But there is still a tangible result.

It teaches flexibility of thinking and problem solving

So many times I say to kids “OK, that doesn’t look like it does on my picture, what did we do wrong?”, followed by “OK, let’s try that then!”. It’s amazing to watch our children move from “it’s gone wrong, bin it” to experimenting to try and improve the outcome. When I hear “it’s too runny, add more flour” I smile, I count this as a breakthrough parenting moment.

It can be really helpful to use non-specific language, I love seeing that look and a laugh when I say ‘you need a good amount of this’ or ‘give it a squirt of that’. I say we’re working on estimating.

It teaches art, creativity and scientific experimentation

We’ve made beach scenes out of shaving foam and cornflour gloop, farms from rice and silly string and just beautiful visual effects from any range of strange concoctions. I love that moment of “what happens if I mix this with that?”. So long as you’ve checked what you’re using properly, to make sure it’s safe, the worst that will happen is a sticky mess.

Beware of borax as a substitute in cheap homemade slime recipes!

It teaches communication

It can be a great motivator that isn’t food-based; practising choice-making, turn-taking and asking for help is really easy with a tin of shaving foam and some dry pasta. You can follow a recipe, practising reading and maths. Make visual recipes pictures of the scoops of flour and oil, with laminated recipes so the child can tick off each step they do – wiping clean at the end. Get older kids to research their own recipes on the internet and print them off ready for the session.

It teaches motor skills and tactile discrimination

Opening packets, pouring to a measure and sprinkling need I go on? And then squeezing, pressing, rolling, stretching and cutting. It’s amazing for fine motor skill development. You can hide things in a messy play tray or a ball of playdough for the child to find and choose the perfect texture. 

It exposes the child or young person to new sensations

You will make lots of smells with microwaveable soap kits, you will spill liquids, you will touch textures and the outcome is often unpredictable.

It can help with food aversions

Food-based textures and odours can become familiar through messy play. Exploration of food and food-like substances in a calm, fun activity without the pressure and anxiety of being pushed to eat can help to break down anxiety responses to foods, meals and eating.

It’s fun

Or at least, you should make sure it is. 

So, with all of that in mind, Over the next few days, I’ll give you 6 of my favourite recipes, one for each week of the English summer holidays. There are loads of recipes out there, I have a whole book of slime recipes (yes, really) but these ones are tried and tested and hopefully varied.

Hope you have fun trying them out…



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CPD on the Sofa: Early brain development 0-3

We all know the early years are critical to development – what does this mean for practice. Well it is probably all about parent education and advocacy for health promotion. This is a role we OT’s should embrace – we know how essential early input and the environment is in shaping development of the body and brain – and the importance of ‘just right’ sensory input on the new and rapidly developing brain. Sharing resources and public education is something we can all do in schools, community centres and in our clinics… helping make a difference.

Here is a great resource to share in clinics and on websites, blogs and fb pages.

A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to three—producing more than a million neural connections each second.
— Read on

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Research Update: Children with better coordination more likely to achieve at school

Young children with better eye-to-hand coordination were more likely to achieve higher scores for reading, writing and math according to new research — raising the possibility schools could provide extra support to children who are clumsy.

— Read on

Programmes like Fun Fit, developed by in Cornwall and used as a first line of in school support of motor development of young people at risk of sensory motor challenges may provide such opportunities.