A review of our experiences with SMILE at ARCOS, Malvern, Worcestershire.
The SMILE (Sensation Movement Interaction in Life Experiences) Project is based at the ARCOS (Association for the Rehabilitation of Communication and Oral Skills.)
We were first introduced to SMILE via one of my daughter’s Pre School teachers who had visited the centre previously. After reading the information leaflets I was given, I thought that SMILE would be somewhere that would really benefit my child, Amber (4) who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) with traits of ASD and ADHD. I contacted Sam the project leader who encouraged me to visit the centre to have a look at the facilities. I first visited with my youngest daughter Maisie (15 months) she thoroughly enjoyed exploring the equipment such as bubble tubes, the snug area and had some time in the music, dance and drama room exploring the instruments, which is really her thing! This visited enabled me to ask questions and throughly get a feel for the surroundings. I talked with Sam about Amber’s current needs and problems she faces.
SMILE is great as it offers both group or individual session in both term time and school holidays.
I was given a leaflet about Family Fund – a charity that provides grants for disabled or seriously ill children. I’d not heard of Family Fund before but after an assessment they provided Amber with a grant to attend 8 sessions at SMILE to which I am eternally greatful.
The first time Amber attended SMILE we met Sam again and Charlotte who were fantastic at allowing Amber to freely explore the sensory room. They had set out a shop role play activity as this was one of Amber’s current interests. It was great to see Amber’s interaction and join in with the imaginative play. We were at complete ease during the 1 hour session I almost forgot where we were! It was truly amazing to have such positive interactions without the pressures and constraints if being at home and having to do everyday tasks, such as housework. These sessions will also benefit Amber’s father greatly to join in with creative or sensory play which offer such great interactive experiences, Amber’s father works full-time and has moderate learning difficulties, to interact in such a calm and relaxing environment will be of great benefit to us as a family.
In the second session Amber attended, she experienced one of her favourite activities which allows for her ‘Sensory Seeking’ this was baking some cookies. Charlotte, who led the activity had thought the activity out so well that she’d included a recipe without egg, being mindful that Amber is allergic to egg. She also included a ‘Social Story’ which Amber responded well to and I now use these at home. What I really liked about this session was that Amber could explore the baking materials, for example feeling the flour in her hands and it didn’t matter if she made a mess, which was like therapy for me to just allow myself to enjoy Amber exploring the activity. Whilst the cookies were baking Charlotte introduced Amber to the project’s new additions – chickens and cockerel! Amber throughly enjoyed meeting them and learning all their names, she has since told me that ‘Billy the Bantam’ is her favourite!
Amber is very much looking forward to visiting SMILE in the summer holidays. She requested a sand activity next!
I would recommend SMILE to any parents, it is a wonderful and supportive place. I just wish I took some pictures but we were both so absorbed in the activity!