IMG_3818 – Home & Community Options

What do you do when you are sitting and waiting to get into an appointment? At a meeting and disinterested? Restless?  You may twirl your hair, fiddle with a ring or your watch, fiddle with a pencil or some other small item, doodle, or something similar.  Did you realize that when you are engaging in this manner, you are actually meeting sensory needs you have in general, or at that specific time?   Most people think that there are only 5 senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, sound), but would you be surprised to learn that there are actually 7 sensory systems, including vestibular (movement-where are our body parts are in space) and proprioception (body position-where our body parts are relative to each other and information on how much force to use).

Sensory integration is the process through which we receive information through our senses, organize this information, and then use it to participate in everyday activities.   An example of sensory integration is:  1) you smell the food that has been prepared and begin to take a bite; 2) you taste the food; 3) you feel the texture of the food; and 4) you determine what it is and if you want more of it.

Having a sensory need is something that every human experiences.  Some people may have difficulty receiving and/or processing the incoming sensations, or they may over or under respond to the stimulation.  The tools or items used with sensory related issues can be expensive and difficult to afford for individuals on a fixed income.  The other challenge is learning after the money is spent, the item doesn’t meet the persons need and is basically useless.  Individuals receiving support through Home and Community Options, Inc. have a resource available to them to meet some of their sensory needs – HCO’s Sensory Library.

Pez on the River is a local Pez Convention held annually in September in Winona, MN.  During this convention, a live and silent auction is held and the money raised is donated to HCO for the sensory library and self-advocacy activities.   With these funds, a Sensory Library has been developed and stocked for individuals receiving support services to try.   Individuals (or their staff members) can check the items out for an initial 2-week trial.  After 2 weeks, they are contacted to find out if the item is helpful.  If it is, they have the option to keep it for another 2 weeks.  After those 4 weeks, they are contacted again.  In most cases, if items are helpful, the individual is offered the opportunity to keep it at no charge.  If items are not helpful, they can be returned at any time for someone else to try.

Items available in the library include things such as finger/hand fidgets to fiddle, roll, spin, shape, pop and so on; vibrating tactile massagers or stimulators; weighted blankets, lap pads, neck pillows and sensory sox; Trichotillomania relief – puller/picker/tugger items to meet the need to pick or scratch, or pull in a way that does not cause personal harm or injury; visual sorting shapes, assembly; social interaction skills games; and vestibular – balance related items.

Without the donations from Pez on the River, HCO would not have been able to develop this valuable resource that enhances the lives of those we serve.