My fidget and stim sensory box!

Hi everyone! I thought I’d upload a video on my fidget and stim sensory box. It’s travel friendly and super useful when on the go! Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel: 21andsensory. All the links are below…

Thanks for watching!

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My latest Chewigem purchase…

My latest purchase from the fab Chewigem 😍🙌 this is the berries necklace – it’s very chunky (beads approx 28mm in diameter) and the necklace comes in a whole range of fun vibrant colours, I went for the blues and greens theme.

Other colour combinations are:

  • Black/Grey/White
  • Blues & Greens,
  • Pinks & Purples
  • Rainbow
  • Reds & Blues

Each bead is covered in little nubs for sensory appeal and greater feedback when chewing. The beads have a heavy sort of weighted feel and I just like to hold and fidget with them. It’s hardwearing so would work well for more robust chewers.

I find it’s a much harder chew compared to the Raindrop which I also bought from Chewigem (see my blog post reviewing it here) but I like that it’s a different density as I can choose between which chewellry I think I need / would be best to wear by strength and flexibility. I find if I feel super anxious or agitated a tougher chew works better because then I don’t have to worry about leaving marks or damaging it.

In conclusion: I would definitely recommend! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Sensory Processing Disorder Research Study and Survey

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Hi everyone – this is just a little blog post to let you know about a research study that I’m (and hopeful you will be) involved in.

I’ve been speaking via email to a super lovely student from the University of KOC (Turkey) who is studying Media and Visual Arts and has participated in design research for people with ASD. Now they’ve gone further with research and to specialise in design relating to Sensory Processing Disorder. A survey link was sent through to me this week and I am trying to share it with as many people as possible in order to help with the research!

Below is a link to the survey and it would be fab if you have a spare 5 mins and can fill it  out:

http://koc.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_032S5XEHYXqKXad

Thanks! Any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below or @21andsensory on Instagram and Twitter.

New Sensory Q&A ✨

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen over the recent weeks I’ve been trying out a new feature on the platform. I’ve been giving my followers the opportunity to ask me any questions they may have and then posting my answers via my Instagram stories. I bought it would also be worthwhile posting the questions and my answers below (all anonymous). You can still access all my question and answers on my @21andsensory Instagram profile page under the ‘highlights’ section. So here are the questions I have been asked…

What sensory strategy have you found most helpful?

I reckon the best strategies I’ve found are a combination of: sensory diet (e.g body brushing, weighted blankets, fidget toys) alongside occupational therapy which I’ve found to be the most helpful form of therapy. Basically what I’m getting at is that there’s no one sensory strategy…it’s lots of different things in combination that help me to function. And I can’t always function ‘normally’ which I’m starting to understand more.

Tips for travelling with sensory issues?

Ooh okay. Good question but a bit of a difficult one as I don’t tend to travel that much! I do go on trains and drive places, etc but I haven’t been abroad in years. I would say that distraction is the key 🔑. Using things like weighted blankets and jackets, fidgets, chewing gum, listening to calming sounds or music, etc.

Also I like to travel with my own washing detergent and same sorts of smells like deodorants and perfumes so that everything feels a bit more normal and routine. It’s all about making things more easier and comfortable for yourself.

Do you have any tips for how to help someone who struggles with taste and texture of fruit and veg?

I totally understand how much of a struggle this can be, especially introducing new foods (and weird textures are the worst!) I think just trying new foods little (portion) and often (as much as you can) and just trying to get used to the food in your mouth or even just holding it in your hand is a really good step in the right direction. Equally there’s lots of food/textures I just can’t deal with so I just steer clear of them altogether – this is totally okay and acceptable too.

What would one of your top tips be for supporting someone with SPD?

That’s a very good question 🤔 I think each person with SPD is completely different so it’s key to have a quick chat or conversation with the person to check if they are sensory defensive or sensory seeking or a bit of both! Just understanding what a person can and can’t tolerate means you are taking time to make their environment and experience that much more easier to cope in and this will help them to feel more confident. Also being understanding of the fact that we may use fidgets, body bushes, sunglasses, ear defenders, etc to allow us to cope in everyday environments means you are being super supportive ☺️

I think it’s important to have an understanding of sensory meltdowns and providing a quiet safe space or zone (even if it’s a loo break) can really helps people with SPD calm themselves down to avoid a meltdown.

What advice would you give your younger self in terms of understanding your own needs?

Definitely an interesting question. I think I am struggling to understand my own needs even now 😂 but I think I would say to my younger self to hang in there and that you’ll pick up little coping mechanisms and techniques that survive everyday living. I think I’d also say that sensory processing disorder and autism will become more and more well documented and understood as the years go by – so have faith!

And what advice would you give parents? Ps thanks for everything you post, it’s so helpful and insightful!

Another super question…I know it must be so difficult being a parent because you just want to support and help your child as best you can. I know this is super hard because you are unable to sort of see and hear what goes on in our heads and to understand what it’s like to be sensory seeking or sensory defensive.

I would suggest a great thing to start is creating a sensory bin/box with sensory toys and fidgets and allow your child to stim and explore different things. For example my mum always helped me by giving me opportunities such as having a swing in the garden, allowing me to trampoline and have weighted jackets and ankle weights. Feeding that need for self regulation by building up a sensory diet with your child ☺️

I think it’s so important to remember that your child is different and not less. All of my relatives know of my ‘special quirks’ and that’s okay because that’s what makes ‘me’ me.

Ps: Thank you so so much for this comment – it really does mean the absolute world to me! My aim after starting my blog and Instagram account was: if I can help or support at least one person then I will have done my little bit in this crazy old world!

What recommendations do you have for living with dyslexia and dyscalculia? Especially with schoolwork?

Again another great question! I think concerning school work and dyslexia / dyscalculia I tried to make everything as visual as possible. Lots of drawings lots of A3 posters (which I stuck in my bedroom and around my house!) in different colour pens with drawings so the information would stick in my brain. At uni I used to record every lecture via a dictaphone or on my voice memos on my phone so that I could always go back and re-listen to what they had said. This was especially helpful when it came to essay writing!

Do you ever notice if you’re being overstimulated until later on?

I am quite sensitive to literally the world so I usually become overwhelmed sensory-wise immediately after something like a loud noise or bright colourful environment 🙄 I will either escape to a toilet or outside to just get some quiet and calm or I will bottle up how I feel and have a good cry when I get home!

How do I catch my social mistakes? Or should I ask my peers to correct me?

This is always a difficult one. I think it’s okay to ask your family / relatives to maybe comment and suggest where you might be going a little wrong. I find peers and friends can be too critical and not always understand what difficulties I actually have. Much better to ask people who really know you well. I also think ‘neurotypical’ people make social mistakes too – so dint be too hard in yourself because it’s great that you are being social and meeting up with people ☺️

So there you have it – I tried to answer as best I could and I was really surprised and impressed at the amazing range of questions I was asked! If you ever have a question for me feel free to message me on Instagram, here in my blog comments or via my email: 21andsensory@gmail.com and I’ll always try my best to get back to you!

Book Review: ‘Odd Girl Out’

 

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‘Odd Girl Out’ is a book by the lovely Laura James. Laura is an author and a journalist (and the owner of a communications agency). She is a mum of four children and lives in North Norfolk, UK. Laura tracks the year of her life in this book after receiving a diagnosis of being autistic from her doctor.

Here is a little synopsis:

What do you do when you wake up in your mid-forties and realise you’ve been living a lie your whole life? Do you tell? Or do you keep it to yourself?

Laura James found out that she was autistic as an adult. Odd Girl Out tracks the year of Laura’s life after she receives a definitive diagnosis from her doctor, as she learns that ‘different’ doesn’t need to mean ‘less’ and how there is a place for all of us, and it’s never too late to find it.

Laura draws on her professional and personal experiences and reflects on her life in the light of her diagnosis, which for her explains some of her differences; why, as a child, she felt happier spinning in circles than standing still and why she has always found it difficult to work in places with a lot of ambient noise.

Although this is a personal story, the book has a wider focus too, exploring reasons for the lower rate of diagnosed autism in women and a wide range of topics including eating disorders and autism, marriage and motherhood.

This memoir gives a timely account from a woman negotiating the autistic spectrum, from a poignant and personal perspective.

Quote from amazon.co.uk

My review:

This book is phenomenal and these are the main reasons why:

  1. Whilst reading it I’ve never felt SO understood.
  2. Laura is very open and forthcoming about her struggles. This is so refreshing.

The book covers Laura’s autism assessment and diagnosis, childhood, teen years and adulthood so far. It’s fascinating to read how Laura was assessed/diagnosed aged 45 and how she has built up so many different coping mechanisms in order to function in a neurotypical world.

Laura’s book also goes into detail about things like relationship struggles and her special interests. This was particularly interesting to read about and it really emphasised how important special interests are to autistic people, and reinforces the point that they should never be denied or taken away from someone.

‘All my life I had tried so hard to be neurotypical, but in that one moment it became utterly clear that I was never going to fit that mould.’ Laura James, The Guardian.

Laura writes about all the daily and mundane things that for some can be such a struggle. Like working in an open plan office. Neurotypical people can deal with this environment okay and sometimes even enjoy being able to talk to people freely around them. For Laura (and me!) it’s nothing short of a bloody nightmare. The sound levels change so frequently that it can be quiet one moment and so loud the next that you can’t think or function properly. Bright strobe office lights can be distracting and too much to bear (and if you haven’t already why not read about my fluorescent jacket troubles in my own office here!). Not to mention the varying smells, people touching you from behind to grab your attention, etc. New experiences really are so overwhelming. This book really will open your eyes to the world around you and make you think twice when you are in these sorts of environments.

The depictions of autism that are mainstream tend to be from things such as: RainmanThe Curious Incident and the Netflix series Atypical. This is all well and good but these films and shows sum up autism to generally be a very male condition when really it’s not at all. Female autism is less documented and understood and I feel that Laura touches on this: a lot of female autistics mimic others around them in things like social situations and are able to get by copying and learning from others behaviours. I think this is why a lot of girls are going undiagnosed for so long. Because we are able to just about manage and put on an act/mimic others to get by okay in life.

A lot of girls are told they ‘don’t seem autistic’. I think this is because we are able to cope on the surface of things and learn behaviours such as keeping good eye contact in order to fit in. It’s all about being able ‘pass’ socially in order to stay under the radar and seem ‘normal’. That’s pretty awful don’t you think? I constantly have to push myself into new situations that I don’t want to do and can’t cope with just to seem like I am normal. Then I can have meltdowns before and after these because it requires so much of my energy and is so hard sensory-wise.

It’s obviously slightly tricky to write a book review as I don’t want to giveaway large sections of what happens because people might want to read it!

I do just want to mention a couple of things. This book was a bit hard to read. I don’t mean this in a bad way at all – it was always going to be difficult to read a book on someone else’s life especially if they struggle with the same things as me (or you). I found that a lot of the autism and sensory parts of the book made me upset / triggered bad thoughts and feelings. This did not put me off and should not put you off either. I think I just resonated with a few of Laura’s struggles so much that I couldn’t help but feel upset but also relieved all at the same time. And yes, I cried through parts of this book. I’ve only admitted that to be honest, because so many things Laura mentioned echoed my own struggles.

The one other thing to mention is that the book can be slightly hard to follow at certain points as Laura jumps back and forth from her childhood memories/life to the present day but this might just be a dyslexic thing I struggle to keep track of!

I’m going to admit to something that you’ve probably already guessed by reading my blog. I have always been the Odd Girl Out. Throughout my life I have constantly struggled with the seemingly normal and mundane things through childhood to my current early adulthood. I hate all the things that neurotypical and young adults seem to love doing like: going to loud places, loud music, meeting up with friends, going to new places, parties in general, restaurants, going on holiday, buying new clothes, drinking alcohol, going to super bright or colourful environments, trying new food, travelling…look the list is actually never-ending. The point I’m getting at is…this book made me feel less alone. I know that sentence is a little bit sad, but it’s true. Because having these struggles all the time is very (very) tiring and nobody else truly seems to understand me (apart from my mum!) or what really goes on in my head. This book gives me just a bit of hope for the future.

I have passed this book onto my mum who is currently reading it. I really think the book gives such an insight into what goes in Laura’s mind and highlights what other autistic people struggle with everyday.

So how would I sum this book up?

Laura learns that ‘different’ doesn’t need to mean ‘less’ and how there is a place for all of us, and it’s never too late to find it.

Conclusion: If you can, you have to read this book (no matter who you are!)

Read an extract of the book here

Read an article Laura wrote for The Guardian (UK) here

Buy the book here: UK / US / Rest of the world

New Books 📚

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So I may have splurged on some new books recently – I really do love to read but I do find it hard to concentrate when sitting and read for long periods of time. I want to really get into the habit of reading a bit each day. I’ve heard great things about these books from others all over social media so I thought I’d give them a go! I’ll do a book review on each one as I read them and you can read them here on my blog. New book review coming here soon on ‘Odd Girl Out’ by Laura James.

Also if you’d like to check out some other great books I am reading at the moment have a quick peek at my Instagram story highlights here: @21andsensory

These are the books in the photo:

‘NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently’ by Steve Silberman.

‘The Highly Sensitive Person’ and ‘The Highly Sensitive Person in Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You’ by Elaine N. Aron.

A Chewigem Review!

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If you are new to Chewigem and have never heard of them continue reading, if you would just like to read my specific product review scroll down a little bit!

So since I started my @21andsensory account on Instagram I have slowly been starting to see more and more posts about  how amazing Chewigem’s products are. Chewigem create stylish and functional chewing aids which are designed to look amazing, whilst serving the need to chew. They do a range of chewellry which is awesome – some of the products look just like jewellery that you’d never be able to tel they were chewable! These are very popular with a lot of autistic people I follow on social media and I was super keen to make a first order and see what all the fuss was about!

My product review:

Okay so initially I was slightly overwhelmed at all the choices on the website. However I soon found out that each product was rated by:

  • Durability
  • Flexibility
  • Firmness
  • Is it wearable?
  • Is it a fidget?
  • Is it chewable?

I knew that I wasn’t a heavy duty / hardcore chewer and that I wanted some chewellry that I could wear around my neck that was quite flexible so I could fidget with it when it wasn’t in my mouth.

I was immediately drawn to the Raindrops and The Spinner chewellry:

 

I mean they both look fab. They both come in a range of colours and I liked the idea of The Spinner doubling up as a fidget as the circular disc sits inside the ring and can spin around (hence the name!). I fell in love with the gorgeous looking Raindrop in the Aurora theme (the same in the image on the left, above). I had also seen a lovely looking photo of the Raindrop in Aurora being held up to daylight and it really looked mesmerising so I was sold!

Now one thing I will say is…these chewellry options were not cheap. Both of the chewer above were priced at £13.45 (around $18 / €15) However they are a superb quality and I feel like they really are build to last and stand the test of time.

I managed to find a discount through Chewigem on Facebook (which took off £2.69) and the Royal Mail first class postage was £3.00 so altogether I spent £13.76 (inc.VAT). My order arrived pretty quickly just a few days after:

 

So what did I think of my Raindrop? I absolutely love it. I do regularly forget to put it on and regret it instantly if I go out and have left it at home! However it really is a great and durable chew that really helps alleviate anxiety and the need to have something to chew or crunch on (I love crunchy food and textures).

I have said before on this blog that I never have the feeling of being ‘full’ after eating. I just for some reason never have it which is frustrating as I always feel hungry. This chew has really helped me to stop before I eat and think ‘am I actually hungry?’ and consider that it might just be a pang/need to chew on something.

I love to fidget with the raindrop and it truly does look amazing and glittery/shimmery when you hold it up to a light or in daylight. It’s also thicker around one edge, for extra sensory stimulation. The raindrop is attached to a silky black cord, here are the specs:

  • Height 5.7cm
  • Width 4.2cm (at widest point)
  • Thickness 1cm (at thickest point)
  • Long cord 94cm, easily cut to a desired length. The cord has a bespoke breakaway clasps provide additional comfort and safety and are set to break apart at approximately 2.3kg’s of pressure (5lbs).

All of Chewigem’s silicone items are lead, latex, BPA, PVC and phthalate free. The silicone can withstand high and low temperatures and does not promote the growth of bacteria. All of the chewellry items can be washed in a dishwasher, steriliser or hot soapy water.

Chewigem also do:

  • Chewy bangles
  • Fidget toys
  • Discovery boxes
  • Other toys/gifts

They have some very popular subscription boxes (have a look at the wonderful Katy @ Invisible i on YouTube – she does some fab Chewigem product reviews and works for them now!). Chewigem are based in Scotland, UK and they do two types of subscription boxes:

Very Important Chewer (V.I.C):

  • One Chewigem per month.
  • Private access to VIC Facebook Group
    Open to VIC’s only. This is a safe, secret place to talk about chewing and sensory issues,  with a Supportive community of like minded chewers.
  • Join Jamie (ambassador) on The Chew Factor – Live.
    You’ll be invited to join Jamie live on The Chew Factor to discuss anything you like with Jamie and her growing community.
  • VIC Members sticker.
  • Price: £13.95 per month

Platinum Chewer Club:

  • Two Chewigems per month.
  • Private access to VIC Facebook Group
    Open to VIC’s only. This is a safe, secret place to talk chewing and sensory issues. with a supportive community of like minded chewers.
  • Product Testing Team
    You’ll be invited to join our special group of “Chew Testers”. You’ll have a say in how we develop new products including designs, colours and even product naming.
  • Special Learning material
    We are teaming up with world class experts to create useful and interesting reading material, videos and talks about the benefits of chewing and related sensory topics.
  • Join Jamie (ambassador) on The Chew Factor – Live.
    You’ll be invited to join Jamie live on The Chew Factor to discuss anything you like with Jamie and her growing community.
  • VIC Members sticker
  • Price: £19.95 per month

I am potentially considering a Chewigem subscription in the future, the £19.95 subscription would be a money-saver when you consider each chewellry item is usually priced around £13.45 individually.

So…would I recommend checking out the Chewigem website/ their products?

100%.

Just to be clear – this is not a sponsored post. I was keen to share my thoughts on Chewigem’s products with others as I find their products helpful. Feel free to leave any further questions or thoughts in the comments below!