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New Sensory Therapy Room to Aid the Recovery of Chronically Ill Children

A fully equipped Sensory Therapy Room has been unveiled at St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children in Montana, Cape Town, thanks to funding from the Spur Foundation’s Full Tummy Fund.

The Full Tummy Fund’s investment gives children from disadvantaged communities with chronic illnesses and rehabilitation requirements, access to multiple therapy services. These services have been designed to teach the children to desensitise behaviours, encourage their recovery, keep them mobile and aid the sensory development of younger patients.

“The sensory equipment of our new Sensory Therapy Room has enabled us to expand on the therapy we offer, which includes baby and toddler stimulation groups, ADL (Activities of Daily Living) groups, arts and crafts groups and individual therapy,” explains Monique Christmas, an Occupational Therapist at St Joseph’s.

“The room has been set up in such a way that we as therapists can control a variety of elements such as light, sound, touch, movement and input. All of these factors are very hard to control in a busy area, causing a child to become overstimulated and may result in tantrums or cause shutdown. Being in a stable environment, where there are no sudden sounds, noises or lighting changes allows for the therapist to reach the child at his or her level of functioning.”

The tools and equipment utilised in the Sensory Therapy Room include a variety of sensory therapies. The “flying saucer” (a round container hanging from the ceiling in which babies can be put to swing back and forth to create the sensation of movement), for example, offers vestibular input, works on core strength, equilibrium and righting reactions. “All of these components are needed when going through daily activities such as climbing a jungle gym or playing in the park,” adds Christmas.

The “magic/kinetic sand” gives lots of tactile input, which helps with the development of the sense of touch. “Many kids enjoy playing in sand and making sand castles, but others don’t. It can be a nightmare taking some children to the beach or walking barefoot on the grass. Occupational Therapies help these kids become more desensitised to tactile stimuli through a graded process, so that the child can explore their surroundings freely without the fear of walking barefoot on the grass or playing in the sand,” says Christmas.

Another important tool found in the therapy room, which aids many of the traumatic brain injury patients with ataxia post injury, are weighted vests and straps donated by the Spur Foundation’s Full Tummy Fund.

“Ataxia means poor coordination and unsteadiness due to the brain’s failure to regulate the body’s posture and the strength and direction of limb movements. When trying to reach for a spoon, a child’s movements may be very shaky. With a weighted vest and straps at the arm and wrist, the body stabilises, which helps the child feed themselves without assistance. Thanks to the weighted clothing, the child is more independent,” shares Christmas.

“Through the selfless dedication of St Joseph’s staff, more than 300 sick children from impoverished families have received a second chance at childhood. In order to be able to give these youngsters the utmost care, St Joseph’s needs assistance from South Africans to help maintain and improve their offerings and infrastructure. If we all do our part, the change will be evident,” says Ronel van Dijk, Chief Financial Officer at the Spur Corporation and Chair of the Spur Foundation Trust, which aims to uplift and improve the lives of South African families and children in particular.

St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children is a registered non-profit organisation that supports children, families and communities from poorly resourced areas with free paediatric intermediate healthcare. The children accommodated range from infants to teens aged up to 17. The home’s multi-disciplinary and holistic model includes 24-hour specialised and general nursing care, rehabilitation, physio-, occupational- and speech therapy, social work support and psychological counselling.