A workshop on multisensory teaching for the sick child and his family
Following a first family art workshop where families learned to create a canvas with their child, the Lighthouse offered a second workshop to them, this time focusing on multisensory teaching.
We invited the sick child's parents, grandparents, as well as their siblings to build sensory panels. The workshop was presented by special education teacher, Laura Elkes, and animator Jessica Lauzon and lasted three hours in the Lighthouse classrooms.
What is a sensory panel?
A sensory panel is a hard plate where we stick different objects to stimulate the tactile, sensory, and visual senses of the child. This allows the child to explore the senses and handling, which is particularly useful for children suffering from intellectual or physical deficiencies.
Families used rubber rings, mirrors, small fur animals, bells, horns, wheels, doorstoppers, lights, sandpaper, different textured tissues, locks, buttons, velcro, and many more objects to create personalized sensory panes.
Stimulating or calming the child?
Before creating a sensory panel, families need to question what was the goal of their creation. In fact, it is possible to build different panels according to the child's capacities, needs, interests, and sensory limits. For instance, some autistic children react negatively to noise, too pronounced textures, and other sensory overstimulation. Therefore it is important to choose the objects according to each child's limits. We invited families to test the objects with their child before choosing the objects to screw on the panel.
If the goal is to stimulate the child, we can prioritize objects with a rich texture, loud noise, and bright colors. If the goal is calming the child before sleep, we choose softer textures, colors, and sounds.
Other families have opted for educational panels that allow the child to develop their fine motor skills and matching games. On these panels, we may put locks, zippers, shapes resembling ones to connect a rope with a velctro, buttons, and latches or a board with chalk.
What are the benefits for parents and sibilings?
Parents do not always have the necessary tools and resources such as the Lighthouse educators' teachings and techniques at home to stimulate or calm their children. The goal of these workshops is the sharing of knowledge, but also an opportunity to gather with families of seriously ill children and break isolation. They allow families to experience activities that they cannot experience otherwise, in an environment adapted to their child.
As for siblings, these activities are very valuable as they can be proud to be able to do something concrete for their sister or brother.
Everyone had fun building these panels. Towards the end, no one wanted to stop creating!
Photo credit: courtesy of Nathalie Rioux