Qatar Foundation ( QF) has teamed up with Sensory Souk to provide increased access to educational tools and sensory fidget toys that support children with autism.
Now available to purchase in vending machines and gift shops within QF including Multaqa, the Recreation Centre, the 2015 Building, and Oxygen Park, the tools are designed to help children focus in school and adapt to different learning environments.
“Some children get irritated by background noise, like students talking in the classroom, someone on the phone, or even a fan. Others do not feel comfortable with remaining in their seats for long periods of time and may have to stand up and walk around, which sometimes is not possible in the middle of a lesson,” said, Alison Saraf, a co-founder and managing director of Sensory Souk.
“Fidgets can help, such as ear defenders or noise-cancelling headphones, and other sensory toys that allow children to release energy so they can re-focus in the classroom without having to move around.”
Sensory toys that can be touched or smelled, such as sand, slime, shaving foam, and ice, can heighten the senses of children – especially those with autism – and provide the input they need to re-focus, said Saraf, adding that other children prefer weighted products, such as vests or blankets.
“And not only children with autism and related disorders can benefit from these tools – a lot of children have sensory sensitivities and struggle in mainstream classrooms to maintain focus,” Saraf added.
Explaining that the collaboration began with Renad Academy – part of QF’s Pre-University Education – Raana Smith, another Sensory Souk co-founder and managing director, said that initially the team served as advisers and suppliers of products to support the learning and development of children with autism, but since then the partnership has grown
“We have been involved in storytelling events at Qatar National Library, and we have collaborated with Hamad Bin Khalifa University to translate an application we launched for children with autism.
Being mothers of children with additional needs, Saraf and Smith started the Sensory Souk as a passion project which aimed to bring the ASD community together, raise awareness around the disorder, and provide information to parents and family members.
“Currently, Sensory Souk not only sells ability-friendly products, but also serves as a platform to announce and host events, webinars, and discussions around autism,” said Saraf.
Omer Abdulkader, commercial development specialist, QF, added: “We saw a clear synergy between some of QF’s values and Sensory Souk, and we wanted to expand our offerings in Education City to include ability-friendly products. Families now have easier access to ability-friendly products, some of which are only available in a few places around the country.”