The Sunflower Parent Sensory Programme – @5Boroughs NHS

The Sunflower Parent Sensory Programme delivers rays of delight to families in St Helens and Knowsley

Having realised the way they were operating wasn’t working, the Community Paediatric Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy team had the courage to stop, and consult with families to review services.

The result was the Sunflower Parent Sensory Training programme, a classroom based coaching package helping parents develop a personalised ‘sensory diet’ – strategies for their children to understand and regulate their senses – together with healthcare professionals.

St Helens mum Katie Shallcross, mum to Arlo aged six, has found the Sunflower Programme invaluable: “Arlo has motor skill and sensory difficulties so I self-referred him to the Occupational Therapy Team. I’d heard about the Sunflower Programme and mentioned it to Arlo’s school and, once I had been accepted on to the Programme, I took his school one to one support assistant with me.

“I was immediately very impressed. It was so helpful to learn which techniques works for each child and it made us more aware of Arlo’s needs and what can trigger him to become upset or disorientated.

“Previously, if we went out as a family, it would be difficult for Arlo – any loud noises used to trigger his sensitivities and he would get very upset….Now as a family, we can go to more places.

“We’ve seen a big improvement in his behaviour too. Arlo is more aware too and at school he is able to have sensory breaks. This understanding has significantly improved his way of life.”

Another parent who understands the impact of the programme is Donna Pettyfer whose four year old son Adam, who is autistic and non-verbal: “Life in our family was very difficult and we had no ability to communicate with Adam. He had a fog in his mind which we couldn’t clear.

“I’m an experienced parent, but didn’t know what to do. I started the Sunflower course in January…and the first Sunflower session was a revelation. It was such an incredible thing for me to learn why he was struggling and what was happening – simple, but vital information.

“…I went on a journey of my own with Adam. I learned that he wasn’t processing in six of the seven senses and that his body needs more stimulation. We have learned techniques to do that daily and his cognitive development flourishes as a result.

“He’s come on leaps and bounds. Previously, he could say two words – ‘mummy’ and ‘no’. In the weeks following the course, he can say 20 clear words, including ‘yes’, which means he is much more positive.”

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