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Take-home sensory packs help to provide comfort for young people in distress

Young people and their whānau who access Child, Adolescent and Family (CAF) outpatient services are already benefitting from take-home sensory packs funded by Māia Health Foundation.

The sensory kits are made up by staff and distributed to CAF teams in Christchurch, Rangiora, Rolleston and Ashburton.

The aim of the take-home kit is to start a young person’s journey in understanding how important their senses are when they are wanting to feel ‘just right’.  The introductory sensory kits contain items that relate to the different sensory systems – to help calm, alert or even distract a young person.

Tracy Boon, Allied Health Consultant in the CAF service, says the packs are already making a difference for families, taking the stress and worry out of sourcing and purchasing the items themselves.

“The sensory kits are helpful in the moment when a young person is new to the service and in a distressed state. To be able to give the family an introductory pack for their young person as they leave their initial appointment can be so reassuring for parents, and it makes the staff feel  good also,” says Tracy.

The clinical teams suggest to consumers to personalise their sensory kit and add items that are meaningful to them, for example a kit that has a theme such as a ‘wake up kit’, a ‘sleep kit’, a ‘wairua kete’ or an ‘emergency kit’.

When people are distressed, it can be difficult to think and decide how to help themselves. Some people resort to using harmful behaviours to regulate their emotions, sensory kits are a helpful tool to prevent these behaviours and help people to cope in a healthy way.  

“Exploring sensory tools has extremely useful for me understand the different strategies that work to help me manage my distress.  Sensory tools have helped me to be more aware of my triggers so I can manage my distress in a healthy way,” says Kate Enright, Youth Consumer Advisor.

It can be useful for families to keep a sensory kit in a clear and handy place, so that when their child feels overwhelmingly distressed, they can go to their kit and find something that may help them cope or feel better.

The take-home sensory packs, and along with a menagerie of weighted animals now being used within the CAF teams, are the first steps in Māia’s mission to make a difference for child and youth mental health, using funds raised through the Shine-a-light Christmas appeal in 2020.

In partnership with Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), Māia aims to raise up to $6 million by 2023 to help create a modern, fit-for-purpose outpatient facility that is welcoming and safe, and that will transform the way therapeutic mental health care is provided to distressed young people in the region.

Māia Health Foundation is focused on a vision to help develop a facility that is:

  • Young people and whānau centred – with spaces large enough for families and their cultural needs.
  • Promotes health and wellbeing using light, spaces for play and engagement, indoor/outdoor flow, colours and aesthetics.
  • Has age and stage considerations.
  • Clinically effective and therapeutic by using technology, sensory spaces, multi-agency/whānau inclusion and specific therapy and quiet spaces.

For more information about the Child and Youth Mental Health project go to https://www.maiahealth.org.nz/projects/key-projects/youth-mental-health/

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