Cally joined Share in 2015 and studies digital skills with us. She's a talented artist who uses her personal experiences, imagination and moods to create digital art, usually using Microsoft Paint. During her time at Share, Cally has achieved units in graphics towards a City & Guilds Skills for Working Life qualification.
Cally is a quiet and polite person, but can get overwhelmed easily. We’ve been working with her to learn about what she likes and dislikes, and support her to understand her own triggers and develop tools to help her to self-regulate, and reduce any anxiety and stress she may be feeling. So that she can concentrate on doing more of what she loves – drawing beautiful images.
Cally likes clear guidance and routine in a quiet environment (eg, a regular place to eat) so that she doesn't experience any sensory overload. She can find it difficult to share her thoughts and therefore generally prefers her own company. When communicating with Cally, we know that it is important to be patient, and keep things simple and clear so that they are not open to misinterpretation.
She enjoys computer time, and going out for walks and meals, but dislikes shopping, new clothes and rain.
Cally is one of our students who took part in our My SPACE Sensory Project. The findings of this project helps us to support Cally to help her to understand her own needs better and hence develop a series of coping mechanisms – a Sensory Tool Kit – for herself, and thus improve her general wellbeing.
As part of this project, we evaluated Cally's sensory preferences for sight/visual environments and smell/olfactory environments. We sensed that Cally really enjoyed these sessions by the fact that she would enter the class in the morning and say quite boldly ‘Hi Diana, this is Sensory Processing Independent Learning Skills’, a sure signal that Cally was anticipating her involvement in the lesson and feeling positive for the day ahead.
Cally is extremely aware of her environment and her levels of emotional excitement can go from high to low, sometimes quite suddenly. During the project, we discovered that Cally found the process of ‘blowing bubbles’ and ‘popping bubbles’ extremely rewarding. This process had a therapeutic benefit in lifting Cally’s mood which, in turn, allowed her to welcome others into her space, and self-regulate and relax in stressful situations.
We also discovered that Cally:
- Really enjoys using the iPad, often taking charge to introduce and read the entire timetable to the rest of the group, reading clearly and confidently;
- Loves having her photo taken and posing for the camera;
- Is sometimes highly sensitive to being asked questions and can get overwhelmed suddenly. It is therefore important to take things slowly with Cally, allowing her to articulate her answers in her own time;
- Was able to say ‘5-minute break’ or ‘time-out’ as a means of coping during periods of instant anxiety. For this, she choose a straw cushion and found comfort in resting her head on it;
- Likes listening to music and the smell of perfume, especially the scent of mint and lavender. This could be used in the classroom and at home to initiate a calm and relaxed environment for Cally;
- Is drawn to the colour pink, as well as fabrics that shine or sparkle;
- Enjoys playing with objects that light up and flash, which seem to lift her mood as well as her energy levels;
- Likes the sticking tiny items on to something, such as working with sequins. This initiated quite deep focus, suggesting Cally's affinity for detail-orientated work;
- Uses the word “Mheh” to show pleasure or announce that she likes or enjoys something;
- Doesn't like gooey substances or getting messy;
- Could take an instant and often inexplicable dislike to certain people to the extent of not wanting them to sit or stand anywhere near her.
We also noticed that some sensory items triggered specific memories for Cally. For example, one week, Cally put a large bunch of gold-beads around her neck and recalled Mr T, an actor from the television show, The A Team, by repeatedly saying “I am watching you”, while smiling and laughing.
Commenting on Cally's time at Share, Cally's father notes 'She is more assertive now, planning her days out.'