My name is Chris and I’d like to take a couple of minutes to explain who Axiom Sensory is and what we do. In order to do that, I need to tell you a little bit about my family, specifically my seven-year-old son (we’ll call him Bernard).
Suffice to say, Bernard is Autistic. He is loud, has a wicked sense of humour and always has a smile on his face. He shows no interest in traditional education, but has an amazing vocabulary. Despite this, he cannot read (unless he is looking for something specific on Netflix or YouTube) and can only spell a handful of words such as “Mario” and “Wallace and Gromit” (again, to find a specific video on YouTube). He is a problem solver, if there is something he wants he will do everything he can to get it and that, combined with his tenacity means that he can complete an entire video game in a single day from start-to-finish and, thanks to his need for repetition, he will do it all over again the following day.
If you meet us when we are out, he will invariably be wearing noise-cancelling headphones as he cannot cope with the sound of the chillers in the local supermarket or because he hates the wind ringing in his ears when we go over the local field (but will not wear a hat). Dressing is a challenge as he cannot wear anything except jogging bottoms as other fabrics such as denim cause his skin to feel like it is on fire. The bases for every meal are Ketchup and pasta and left to his own devices, he will demolish five or six apples a day.
I am currently writing this in my kitchen and he has just lapped past me for the fourth time, stopped and said hello, asked if his pasta is ready and then wandered off back to the Nintendo without waiting for an answer. He will be back shortly to check again.
I know what I have outlined here is neither new nor strange, it is Autism. It gives him the ability to see the world in a way that I never can, but it also means that the world is a strange and frightening place for him. As I say, he cannot leave the house without noise-cancelling headphones, he must sleep under a special compression blanket and with the music on. He cannot get dressed or use the bathroom without a set of visual instructions and he needs plenty of notice for what is happening in the coming days.
The visual aids began around four years ago, when the nursery started to use prompts to help with the routine and it really made a difference. So, after much googling, a few websites were found with some simple visual aids. The problem wasn’t the quality of the products or even (to a certain extent) the price, it was the inflexibility. Everything came in fixed packs and there were never enough of the things we needed (whether it was an extra swimming icon, or an image for a haircut). This is when I started to use the things I had found as a template and then created new ones instead of buying them, thereby making a set of bespoke tokens truly suited for Bernard.
We have now finished dinner and right now I am on my sofa with my wife, the game on the Nintendo has just finished and Bernard has asked for the third time “what does that say?”, each time more urgently because we have not replied immediately.
Anyway, back to the aids. After starting to create my own tokens, the next issue was how to clearly show what was happening over the coming days and how Bernard could easily tell what day it was. This is where magnets came in. By having some simple days of the week cards and then a magnetic strip above and below that a token could be moved along, Bernard could easily see not only what the day was, but also what was coming up.
Sorry, I had to disappear for a short while to avert a meltdown as a result of not winning the game. Meltdown averted and we’re now doing a few laps of the downstairs to filter and regulate.
Anyway, using magnets helped to overcome a couple more issues as well. Firstly, it meant that tokens could be attached directly to a backing image without it being obscured by something like a strip of Velcro. Secondly (and more importantly), it means that Bernard, who suffers with poor fine motor skills, can easily attach and remove the individual tokens from the planners with ease as Velcro can be a little fiddly.
It also means tokens can be attached and the planner moved around or mounted on the wall without the tokens falling off.
Sorry, had to go away again, it’s bedtime and I’m on bath duty which means running and squealing due to sensory overload from the towel (we now use a microfibre sports towel and, instead of rubbing, we squeeze him dry which has helped reduce the amount of running).
So, what does all of this have to do with Axiom Sensory?
The seed was sewn during Bernard’s reception year when school were struggling to get him to change for PE class. After showing them what we used at home for helping him to get dressed, a new chart was made for them to use. The positive feedback from the school team was flattering, but it took a few more years before actually doing anything about it.
Things started to really gather momentum after converting Bernard’s bedroom into a sensory room on a very tight budget. After many months in the planning and much online research for the most suitable equipment at an affordable price, installation began and he now has a safe space surrounded by wi-fi enabled colour changing ceiling lights, bubble tube and fibre-optics (he calls these his firework lights) as well as the room’s centrepiece, a vestibular swing for Occupational Therapy games and exercises.
And this comes to the first issue with special and disability needs – the cost. As parents, we will do whatever we can to give our children the best possible opportunities, regardless of cost. This is why Axiom Sensory was set up to begin with. We are a family-run business in a neurodiverse environment and it's important that we can provide visual aids that really are affordable.
The second issue is one of flexibility. Whilst it is understood that that many Autistic people require routine and structure, it is also the case that as people grow. Their needs change and the tools put in place will also need to change with them. Many visual aids come in fixed sets meaning that you must often buy a large pack, just for a single, or very few, items. Our approach has been to develop an extensive range of tokens that can be bought individually and personalised to your needs.We acknowledge that you may sometimes need to buy a lot of these tokens, and it can start to get expensive. This is why, we are offering a large discount when you buy a batch of 24 tokens, along with free first class delivery on all orders.
Finally, we are always looking to expand our range. As Bernard grows and his needs change, our portfolio will naturally grow, and every new aid will become available online. But whether you are neurodiverse yourself and need some extra support, or you are a parent, carer or teacher and can’t find what you are looking for, then please get in touch and if there is something we can build for you, then chances are it will help others as well. You can get in touch by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
And so, what next? As we grow and establish ourselves, our aim will be to start to offer other sensory services and products. Specifically, sensory room design and installation. Watch this space!
Thank you for reading and I hope you will find what you are looking for
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