DIY Sensory Box

Hello! Today I wanted to share some top tips for making your own DIY Sensory Box. My sensory box is something that’s definitely evolved over the years, as I’ve been able to tolerate more (but also less) things sensory-wise. I think of it as a box to dip into when in any mood as it can be helpful when feeling overwhelmed or burnt out but equally when you just want to experience a little bit of joy and indulge in something like a visual stim you love.


Start with a plastic tub or storage box – I’ve found that one without a lid or an open-top one can be handy if you want to dip in and out of it quickly (I found having a lid meant I stored stuff on top of it and I’d forget I had it / not end up use it!)

I have suggested a few things you might like to pop in your own sensory box in my drawing and in more detail below:

Fidget Toys: Any fidget toys you already have, think of this box as a collection of lots of different sensory items you already own, there’s no need to buy anything new (unless you want to!). Put a range of them in!

Favourite Books: Put a couple of your all-time favourite books, magazines, activity books, notebooks, anything you can read or do in the box.

Safe Snacks: Pop in any go-to snacks you love (that won’t go out of date too soon). I love anything crunchy like crisps or that are the right sort of chewy like skittles, fruit pastilles or mints. Honestly so handy when you need some sensory input and helps as a distraction.

Visual Stims: Anything visual! For example bubble / liquid timers, spinning fidget toys, that sort of thing.

Headphones: Ear defenders, ear plugs, headphones or earphones.

Nice Textures: For example a favourite feeling fabric, I have some sequinned things in mine as I like the visual of sequins and the texture of moving them back and forth

Calms Scents: Essentials oils, candles, etc. Only scents you like and can tolerate. (I don’t have many and that’s also okay if you don’t too!)

Soft items: Soft toys, squishies, soft blankets, fabric off-cuts, that sort of thing!

Also: I very much appreciate that not everything will fit into a sensory box…but I have a solution: a Sensory Corner! There’s a video on YouTube channel (see below) all about my version of this if you are interested, it’s essentially a dedicated corner that you can set up in any room and really tailor to your own sensory needs and include bigger things like a nice comfy rug, interesting lighting that sort of thing!

Currently Reading 📚

I am currently reading ‘Ways to be Me’ by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott. This is the third book in the series and I have really enjoyed the whole series (and don’t want it to end!)

You might notice as well that this book has a plastic cover over it…I’ve joined my local library! This is the first book I have borrowed through it and I have never been so excited to receive a lil’ membership card and be able borrow books, ebooks and listen to audiobooks too!

I’ve said in a previous Instagram post (about the 1st book) how I feel so much for the main character Tally. A lot is flooding back to me about the hell that was my school years as someone who didn’t know they were autistic and masked her way through. 

Check out my book highlight over on my Instagram for some more fab autism related book recommendations 🙂

The Constant Autistic Internal Monologue

Hi everyone here again to share another drawing…this time on the ‘Constant Autistic Internal Monologue’ which is something that I experience.

Let me explain it a bit more…I didn’t realise (until literally the day of my autism assessment) that most people don’t have a constantly internal monologue running inside them. I was chatting to my assessor and casually explained that I have this constant running internal monologue inside of me of how to act, be, live, etc. By this I mean a constant voice inside me (that is me, not a separate person) telling me things like:

  • ‘Try and keep eye contact Emily!’ 
  • ‘Maybe sit up straight and try and look a bit more interested?’
  • ‘You might be walking to close…maybe back off a bit?’
  • ‘They might want a handshake? A hug? Be prepared’
  • ‘Does my face look engaged? Is my expression okay?’
  • ‘Am I looking awkward?’
  • ‘You could go sit in the toilet for a bit and decompress?’
  • ‘Did I not talk enough? Did I come across weird?’

(As you can see it can be in a range of person tenses and talks in present and past tense too)

It’s constantly suggesting things to me and is very wary of not fitting in and seeming different. It warns me of things, prompts me to maybe do things which would seem more ‘normal’ and it’s not something I can switch off. I think it is a part of masking but it is not something I cannot drop (v.frustrating). It’s something I have always had, I remember it right the way through school trying to guide me and failing to help me. Also as you can imagine, this continuous internal monologue is taking up a hell of a lot of my brain power and I am dealing with this on a daily basis alongside just existing and juggling things like work and my mental health…which isn’t ideal.

The suggestions aren’t always helpful too which is frustrating because it’s hard to ignore or not listen to them or at least take them on board. I wanted to share this in case it’s something others struggle with too though and because it was something I thought was built into everyone (apparently that’s not the case!).

Hope this all made sense.

Is this something you struggle with too? Let me know in the comments below.

My latest podcast episode with Special Guest…My Brother!🎙

Episode 53 of my 21andsensory podcast has a very Special Guest on…My Brother! 

We chat about his FASD and Autism diagnoses and a bit about his life and growing up (including being adopted). We also chat about his special interests and hobbies.

If you haven’t heard of FASD it stands for Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. It is a term used to describe the permanent impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol during pregnancy resulting in a spectrum of physical, emotional, behavioural and neurological characteristics.

Some great FASD resources / Twitter accounts to follow are: 

More info on FASD:

I was also a guest on the @SpotlightonFASD podcast. We chatted about my brother who is adopted and has diagnoses of FASD and is Autistic. I also spoke about my Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism. Listen here:

My episode with my brother can be heard wherever you usually listen to your podcasts:

Describing Masking 🎭

'What is masking' written in black with six hand drawn images below with text describing each written in capitals underneath:
- Hiding your feelings and mood: A blonde girl with a teal jumper is covering her face so you cannot see it
- Imitating facial expressions: A girl with black curly hair and a pink jumper is holding a handheld beauty mirror up practicing facial expressions in the mirror
- Trying not to go non verbal: greyed out volume sign with a red 'x' over it shows no sound and a pair of blue over ear noise cancelling ear defenders next to it.
- Bottling up anxiety, thoughts and stims: lots of coloured water in water bottles jiggling around representing bottled up emotions!
- Trying to focus on conversations but zoning out: Colourful speech bubbles filled with text saying 'are you listening, no thanks, got to go and sorry'
-Trying to act 'normal': Boy with a bright mustard top on with a mask on his face
Text under: This can lead to autistic burnout + sensory hangover

Hello everyone I’m here again to share another drawing, this time on masking 🎭.  I did one a while back when I first started out sharing my illustrations here on Instagram. I don’t love how it looks so decided to redraw it!

So what actually is masking? 

Masking involves trying to hide being autistic so others will accept us. It’s also referred to as camouflaging. This means we act in ways that other people will think we are ‘normal’ and to try and be accepted socially. My drawing includes a few examples of trying to mask.

Over the course of my life I feel I have perfected the art of masking (which isn’t necessarily a good thing). I am extremely good at with-holding my feelings and emotions, bottling them up until I get home. I would cry when I had to go to primary school each morning. Then speed forward a bit in time and I’d come home from secondary school each day very tearful. I even used to cry up in the SENCOs (special needs support) room at break and lunch times because secondary school is quite literally THE most overwhelming place I have ever had to cope in 👀.

But slowly through sixth form and university I began to build up a resilience to the world and although I still get overwhelmed I can always come home, have a bit of a sensory meltdown (and a good cry) then move on with things. 

Socialising will always be hard for me and I think I will always cope with the world like this. But that’s okay. I have to actively remind myself that ‘normal’ isn’t real. And I think you should too. Masking is an autistic and sensory way of coping with the everyday and just trying to get by. Now that is brave. To go out in the world and just exist is a huge thing.

Do you have any tips related to masking? Feel free to share below ☺️

New Year Autistic and Sensory Struggles…📆

Hi everyone – I thought for the next post in my Sensory Series I’d discuss some New Year Autistic and Sensory Struggles…

In my Sensory Series I share text slides on different aspects of Sensory Processing (in between my regular posts of illustrations) so I can share my own outlook on all things sensory related. I thought it would be interesting to share my own experiences, tips and tricks along the way, feel free to scroll back over other posts in this series too over on my Instagram!

Please do share this post and feel free to comment down below how you cope with the New Year and any tips you have!

Image ID below.

Slide 1:

Black and white icon of a calendar with a circled tick inside to indicated a day ticked off or countdown to the New Year with text underneath:
‘New year autistic and sensory struggles…’
The a pastel green line with ‘@21andsensory‘ underneath and in the top right hand corner of the post there is a pastel green box that says ‘ SENSORY SERIES’ in to show what series the post is part of.

Slide 2:

Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it: 
Everything seeming a bit louder, brighter, and just generally more full-on due to desensitising to things over the break.
Looking forward to the routine or schedule that your educational or workplace setting gives you when you return again.
Worrying more about how your facial expressions and body language are coming across and mimicking other people automatically.

Slide 3:

Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it:
The dread of engaging in post- Christmas small talk on return to school, college, uni, work, etc. 
Not knowing how to word the start of your emails at the beginning of the New Year. (Do you have to ask people how their Christmas / New Year was…is it rude not to…)
Having to get back into the practice of maintaining eye contact with people who aren’t your immediate family or friends all over again.

Slide 4:

Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it:
Not realising until you are in a safe space that you are masking more in order to cope when you are out and about…and feeling burnt out as a result.
Having to get back into tolerating specific clothing again such as formal work wear or school/work uniforms.
Panicking about have to be more ‘social’ and switched on. Also the struggle of trying not to zone out of conversations and stay present.

Slide 5: 

Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it:
Not having to worry about being told or asked to try out new foods and drinks and not stressing about whether you’ll have access to your usual safe comfort foods.
Getting back into the rhythm of planning out your downtime to involve special interests, hobbies and things you really love doing.
And…No more Fireworks to worry about! (For a little while at least)

Slide 6:

21andsensory logo (person holding up a white board with ’21andsensory’ on it. Underneath it says:If you like my work and you are able to, please consider supporting me via my Kofi page (link in bio). Or why not have a listen to my 21andsensory Podcast! With social media icons underneath.

Celebrating my 50th 21andsensory Podcast Episode! 🎉

Today I published my 50th 21andsensory Podcast episode! (Available wherever you get your podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc!) It’s a celebratory episode with just me doing an update and catch up so make sure you have a listen (link below this post!)

I started my podcast in August 2017 and it was literally just me talking into my voice memos on my phone. No fancy equipment whatsoever. I just decided to start chatting about my own life and my sensory struggles (little did I know I’d find out I was Autistic in 2019!)

It’s grown massively since then and from episode 17 onwards it wasn’t just me rambling on my own. I have had the pleasure of talking to a huge amount of people from all walks of life who have been so open and honest with me about their own journeys. It’s been an absolute pleasure and a joy to talk to so many people and I am constantly fascinated by what they have achieved. Also: I love nothing more than when my guests info dump about their hobbies and special interests when they come on!

I get a lot of email requests from people asking to ‘speak to my team’ about coming on my podcast and those sorts of emails always make me laugh because…it’s just little old me! I approach potential guests, create a personal podcast outline of questions each time, record, edit and publish the podcast on my own – and I absolutely love doing it. I really do love the audio format (and am a big podcast listener myself) there’s just something that feels really personal about chatting to someone in an informal and chill way.

Anyway! Here’s to more podcast episodes in the future…

Next milestone: 100 episodes!

You can listen here or below…

A few everyday things that are sensory hell…😣

Hi everyone – I thought for the next post in my Sensory Series I’d discuss a few everyday things that are sensory hell…

In my ongoing Sensory Series posts I’ll be sharing text slides on different aspects of Sensory Processing (in between my regular posts of illustrations) so I can share my own outlook on all things sensory. I thought it would be interesting to share my own experiences and tips and tricks along the way.
Feel free to scroll back over other posts in this series too over on my Instagram here.

Please do share this post and feel free to comment down below how you cope with change and any tips you have!

Image ID:

  • Tags and seams in clothing. 
  • Someone brushing up against you as they walk past.
  • Loud unexpected noise when walking near roads (especially motorbikes and sirens on emergency vehicles).
  • Electrical appliances that hum, buzz or vibrate.
  • Forcing yourself to brush your hair and teeth despite hating it.
  • Socks that won’t stay up or that roll down and come off in your shoe.
  • Strong distracting smells like air fresheners, scented candles, perfumes, aftershaves, detergents.
  • Clothing sleeves that get all bunched up and roll up under your coat sleeves.
  • Someone lightly touching you on the arm when they are talking about you in a conversation.
  • Bright colourful places like shops, classrooms and workplaces that are  visually disorientating and distracting.
  • Finding holes in the only comfy clothing you have and stressing out about finding the exact replacement.
  • Anything that flickers or moves too fast like: candles, lights, screens, etc.
  • Cooking smells and getting your hands messy when preparing food and constantly having to wash them.
  • Worrying about access to your safe foods constantly when out and about and when you need to stock up at home.
  • Keeping up a mask and an act of ‘I’m doing okay, I’m managing’ until you can get home, be yourself and stim freely.
  • Not listening to music and avoiding online videos because songs get stuck in your head for hours on end and this causes overwhelm.

My Autieversary…🧠

2 years ago on 8th November 2019 I was diagnosed as Autistic aged 25 (I posted this illustration I did above on Instagram on the day…but forgot to post it on my blog!). I can’t believe its been two entire years since then but everyday I am SO grateful to know that little bit more about myself. 

Did I walk out of the assessment thinking that the whole world was going to look, feel and just BE different now that I knew this about myself? Yes. 

Did it? No…but that’s okay. It’s such a life-altering thing to know about yourself that it’s natural to think like this. But what did happen was a hell of a lot of things slid into place in my mind about all the struggles I’ve gone through and how they are all pretty much down to the fact I had no idea I was Autistic. 

You can read a full post on my diagnosis journey here (I recommend grabbing a snack and a hot drink before reading as it’s a long one! ☕️)

Also episode 16 of my 21andsensory Podcast is an entire episode dedicated to just me discussing my entire diagnosis journey if you prefer to listen rather than read. Just search 21andsensory wherever you usually listen to your podcasts!

The struggles of using make-up and beauty products💄

I thought for the next post in my Sensory Series I’d discuss why I struggle to use make-up & beauty products (and don’t anymore!).

In my Sensory Series I’ll be sharing text slides on different aspects of Sensory Processing (in between my regular posts of illustrations) so I can share my own outlook on all things sensory. I thought it would be interesting to share my own experiences, tips and tricks along the way, feel free to scroll back over other posts in this series too! Please do share this post and feel free to comment down below how you cope with change and any tips you have…