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Embracing Neurodiversity: Unlocking Sensory Playground

Updated: Nov 30, 2023




To truly grasp the essence of our unique venture, Sensory Playground Ltd, it's important that we peel back the layers and allow you to peek into the heart of our neurodiverse family-run enterprise. We aren't occupational therapists, nor are we a playgroup, and you won't find playground equipment in our inventory. What we are, however, is a testament to the power of familial love, resilience, and the pursuit of making the world a more sensory-friendly place for all ages.


Allow me to introduce myself—I'm Robyn—and this is the story of my family, our journey, and the birth of Sensory Playground. Our business isn't just a store; it's an extension of our lives, a reflection of the daily challenges and triumphs we face as a neurodiverse household and a carefully curated selection of sensory products which is as diverse as the people who use them.


From Struggle to Strength: Getting Diagnosed

My journey has been a tapestry of academic challenges and personal discovery. School life, from my early years in primary school through to the hallowed halls of university, was a perplexing labyrinth. While I excelled in many areas, English was my formidable foe. The '90s were an era when awareness of learning difficulties was scant, and struggles were often dismissed as mere academic shortcomings rather than attributed to underlying conditions. It wasn't until my university years that I took the initiative to seek private testing, and it was then that the puzzle pieces fell into place—I was dyslexic. This diagnosis was a turning point, providing me with the much-needed support in my studies. I received accommodations for my grammar and spelling challenges (back in the days when everything was handwritten), as well as extra time in exams. These adjustments not only improved my academic achievements but also had a profound impact on my mental well-being during those study years. But my story doesn't stop there. Socially, life remained an enigma until my later years when I received another life-altering diagnosis - ADHD combined type. Growing up, I often found myself fitting in everywhere and nowhere within the ever-shifting landscape of friendship circles. Maintaining long-term friendships proved to be an uphill battle, as I frequently unintentionally upset people with my words, without ever grasping why. Before my ADHD diagnosis, the concept of neurodiversity was a foreign realm, something I had heard of but never fully comprehended. It was my daughter's struggles in year 2 of primary school that set the wheels of change in motion. Her tearful accounts of unexplained difficulties prompted us to seek answers, initially suspecting bullying. However, after consultation with a family liaison officer, we were led to consider autism as a possibility. As we navigated this unfamiliar territory, I began researching autism and ADHD, only to realise that many of the traits I saw in my daughter resonated with my own experiences. Driven by this revelation, I sought an ADHD assessment through the NHS, a process that eventually yielded a diagnosis of ADHD combined type for me, and an autism diagnosis for our daughter. Following this, our son, while in nursery, received an autism diagnosis at the age of 4. You might wonder, "Why seek an ADHD diagnosis as an adult?" The truth is, I hadn't merely been surviving all those years; I had been masking, unknowingly emulating the behaviours and opinions of others in a bid to fit in. It was only when I received my diagnosis that I grasped the extent of this subconscious adjustment. My diagnosis marked a profound transformation, helping me discover my true self beneath the mask. For me, masking had meant adopting behaviours and opinions without realising they weren't my own. Now, I understand that when the mask inadvertently slipped, it could appear as though I was being deceitful or at the very least not consistent with the persona I had been projecting, even though it was a subconscious process. The newfound self-awareness brought significant improvements in my confidence, mental health, and overall well-being. This journey led to the creation of Sensory Playground, and it's a story that's very close to my heart.


Taking a Leap of Faith: Starting a Sensory Business


When the pandemic forced the closure of schools and nurseries, I found myself deeply aware of the support they had provided. Seeking sensory items online during this time, I was met with disappointment when the products I received were not only expensive but also of low quality, making them unsafe for my children, who could be more heavy-handed due to their neurodiverse needs. It became evident that change was needed, and I recognised an opportunity to make a difference.


Venturing into the world of Sensory Playground was undoubtedly a leap of faith, driven by the passion to make a difference fuelled by personal experiences. Starting a business is never without its challenges, but when it's fuelled by a deep understanding of the struggles and needs of neurodiverse individuals, it becomes a labour of love and dedication.


As we embarked on this journey, we knew we were stepping into uncharted territory. We weren't experts in the traditional sense, but we possessed something you could argue even more valuable - a profound empathy and lived experience of neurodiversity. We understood the daily battles, the triumphs, and the moments of pure joy that come with raising neurodiverse children.


The decision to launch Sensory Playground wasn't solely motivated by business ambitions; it was driven by a desire to create a safe haven where individuals of all ages and backgrounds could access high-quality sensory products. It was about bridging the gap we had personally encountered when searching for sensory items during challenging times, like lockdowns when school and nursery closures left us feeling ill-equipped.


We wanted to provide a space where parents, caregivers, teachers and individuals themselves could find the right tools to support needs. It was about offering a curated selection of products that met our stringent criteria: durability, safety, cost-effectiveness, educational value, and, of course, the fun factor.


How does Sensory Play help?


Our children are the heart of our journey; they possess their own set of skills and talents, and it's our mission to nurture these abilities for the greater good. My own diagnosis has allowed us to better understand our children's uniqueness, enabling us to unlock the joy of learning and play that makes their hearts sing. In a world that is gradually awakening to the challenges of mental and emotional development, there is much to be done and even more to be learned.


That said, sensory play isn't limited by age or neurodiverse condition; it's a universal experience. Our sensory products engage the mind, soothe the spirit, and foster social interaction, whether you're a child with sensory processing needs or an adult seeking a moment of calm. For example, we understand that for many, the journey isn't as simple as strolling into a local toy store; even that can be a sensory overload. The bustling, brightly lit atmosphere is an overload for individuals who are sensitive to stimuli - not to mention the multitude of toys and the sights and sounds they emit.


The Sensory Playground range is carefully researched and focuses on addressing unique sensory needs, including sensory stimulation -- and not just for children but for all ages. Sensory toys serve as invaluable tools for individuals with neurodiverse needs, addressing their unique sensory processing challenges and providing a multitude of benefits. The products offer controlled and predictable sensory stimulation, helping children and adults regulate their sensory experiences. They can be a source of comfort, enhance focus and fine and gross motor skills, making them instrumental in development. Additionally, they encourage exploration, creativity and social interaction, fostering vital skills.


Tailored to individual preferences, these toys provide a customisable approach to sensory support. In essence, sensory toys contribute significantly to the well-being of adults, and well-being and development of children with neurodiverse needs, enriching their daily lives and aiding their growth. For instance, one of the aspects of my ADHD is the hyperfocus that accompanies special interests. When someone with ADHD gets really absorbed in a specific interest or task, it can be hard to switch their attention to something else. Sensory products provide a way of gently shifting focus by giving them something engaging and interesting to play with.


Countless hours have been dedicated to researching our products, ensuring that they align with the values of Sensory Playground and meet the unique requirements of our customers. Our range encompasses a wide spectrum of items, recognising that there's no one-size-fits-all solution to sensory needs. Some may find comfort in flashing lights, while others may seek solace in calming liquid timers. From squishy stress balls to small pocket fidget toys for anxiety relief during important meetings, our selection is as diverse as the people who use them. That's why we invite you to search for yourself and experiment at www.sensoryplayground.co.uk.

PS. Safety is paramount to us, and we uphold the highest standards of quality. We only offer products that we would entrust to our own children. Each item is rigorously tested and labeled in accordance with UK or EU standards.


Embracing Neurodiversity: Inspiring Stories from Celebrities


DId you know neurodiversity is a broad spectrum and is much more common than you might think? Shedding the light on the fact that neurodiversity not a limitation for success, numerous celebrities have proudly told their tale of their neurodiverse journey.


For instance, Channing Tatum, known for his acting career, struggled with both ADHD and dyslexia as a child. His mother's invaluable advice to "be a sponge" and learn from people and experiences outside of the classroom helped him develop essential life skills and find success in his profession.


Dave Grohl, renowned as the drummer of Nirvana and the founder of the Foo Fighters, was diagnosed with ADHD during his school years. Despite facing challenges, he became a self-taught musician, achieved worldwide fame and continues to inspire through his music.


James Haskell, a former English rugby star, DJ, podcaster, and author, received his ADHD diagnosis at a young age. After retiring from Rugby, he ventured into various fields, authoring books, and even pursuing a career in mixed martial arts.


Jermaine Pennant, a former professional footballer who played for top teams like Arsenal and Liverpool, was diagnosed with ADHD in 2022. His story highlights that neurodiversity is not confined to any specific profession or field.


Justin Timberlake, an accomplished singer and actor with numerous awards to his name, openly shared his experience with ADHD and OCD in a 2008 interview. His success serves as a testament to the fact that neurodiversity can coexist with talent and achievement.


Mum's the Word: A Message, Parent to Parent To parents of neurodiverse children and anyone embarking on the journey of assessment and discovery, I want to assure you that this road can indeed seem daunting. It's a path marked by uncertainty, questions, and perhaps even fear of the unknown. But as someone who's travelled this road, I can offer you some valuable insights and reassurance. First and foremost, it's okay to feel apprehensive. The journey of seeking an assessment and understanding neurodiversity can be overwhelming. You may be wrestling with a myriad of emotions—worry, confusion, fear, and sometimes even doubt. These feelings are entirely natural. Remember that you're not alone; countless parents and individuals have been where you are now, and many have emerged stronger and more enlightened on the other side. The decision to pursue an assessment is a significant step toward better understanding your child or yourself. It's a proactive choice that can lead to valuable insights, improved support, and a greater sense of self-awareness. Embrace this journey as an opportunity for growth and learning, both for you and your neurodiverse loved one. If I may, here are my top 10 tips as you navigate this new realm: 1. Trust Your Instincts: As a parent or an individual seeking assessment, you know yourself or your child better than anyone else. If you sense that something is amiss or that there are unique challenges that need attention, trust your instincts and seek guidance. 2. Gather Information: Educate yourself about neurodiversity. Understanding the conditions or traits you suspect can empower you with knowledge to advocate effectively for yourself or your child. There are countless resources, support groups, and books available to help you gain insight. 3. Seek Professional Guidance: Reach out to healthcare professionals, specialists, or educational experts who can provide guidance and conduct assessments. They can help clarify any doubts, provide a diagnosis if needed, and create tailored support plans. 4. Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with a support network of friends, family, and professionals who understand and embrace neurodiversity. They can offer emotional support, share experiences, and provide valuable advice. 5. Embrace Neurodiversity: Remember that neurodiversity is a beautiful and integral part of the human experience. It encompasses a wide range of conditions and traits, and each individual is unique. Celebrate the strengths and talents that come with neurodiversity, and recognize that it's not a limitation but a different way of being. 6. Take It One Step at a Time: The journey of assessment and support can be a marathon, not a sprint. Break it down into manageable steps, and don't rush the process. It's okay to take breaks when needed to recharge and reflect. 7. Explore a variety of Sensory Toys: Sensory needs can vary person to person. Be open to trying a wide range of sensory toys and products. Experimenting with different textures, shapes, and functionalities can help identify what resonates most with your child or yourself. 8. Advocacy Matters: Advocate for your child or yourself. Be an active participant in the assessment process and don't hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification. Your advocacy can make a significant difference in obtaining the support and resources you need. 9. Practice Self-Care: Whether you're a parent or an individual seeking assessment, remember to prioritise self-care. Caring for yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically is crucial. Seek moments or respite and relaxation, and don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it. 10. Celebrate Progress: Along this journey celebrate every small victory and achievement. Whether it's a newfound understanding, improved support of personal growth, acknowledge and appreciate the positive steps you take. Step inside Sensory Playground We invite you to explore the world of Sensory Playground, where understanding and celebrating neurodiversity is at the heart of everything we do. Our online store offers a wide range of sensory toys and products that cater to diverse needs and ages. Whether you're a parent seeking tools to support your neurodiverse child or an individual on a personal journey of self-discovery, we have something special for you. So, why not embark on your own sensory exploration today? Discover how sensory play can benefit you or your loved ones, and open up a world of possibilities. Visit our website at www.sensoryplayground.co.uk to view our collection and experiment with something new. At Sensory Playground, we believe that embracing neurodiversity is a beautiful part of the human experience, and we're here to support you every step of the way. Join us in celebrating the unique strengths and talents that come with neurodiversity, and let's make the world a more sensory-friendly place for all. Come on in and explore the world of Sensory Playground today.

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