Soft waves of colour light up the wall in time with the music as Kayla moves her eyes to create her own melody on the Invisible Keyboard.
It’s one of dozens of multi-sensory experiences at the No Boundaries Sensory Unit, a state-of-the-art building developed by No Boundaries Disability Support Inc. in Margate. The organisation is breaking new ground in how it’s using sensory therapy to empower people with disabilities and develop their communication skills.
For Kayla, 25, weekly sessions at the Sensory Unit have enabled her to communicate independently for the first time in her life.
In the past couple of years, Kayla has gone from having no formal method of communication other than facial expressions and vocalisations to using switches to communicate yes or no by moving her head to either side of her headrest to a green or red switch. Kayla is continuing to expand on her communication skills in the Sensory Unit’s Communication Development Program.
“Assisting people to communicate and understand how they communicate enables them to actively participate in their lives. It’s a human right,” Sensory Unit Therapist Stacey Brown said.
“Some of our participants may not have a known form of communication and they may rely on family members and other people making assumptions about what they’re communicating, so we use the Sensory Unit’s environment to support our participants to develop their communication skills.”
Stacey says the No Boundaries Sensory Unit, which is the first of its kind in Australia, has had incredible results with its participants.
The team now wants sensory therapy to be recognised as its own form of therapy for the benefits it has on a person’s wellbeing, behaviour and communication development.
Some of the innovative equipment in the unit includes the Tobii Eye Gaze, which allows participants to use a computer to communicate solely using their eyes, or the Magic Mirror- an augmented reality projection system which gives participants the opportunity to use their body to change their environment, such as to paint, pop virtual bubbles or interact within a scene of their choosing.
“Our guys know that when they come in here, it’s for them, and they are in control of their own environment,” Stacey said.
“We use the equipment to suit what they need, whether that’s an area that’s relaxing, or an area that’s exciting and where there’s lots of movement. That’s the beauty of the Sensory Unit – it can be tailored to the participant and what they need on that day and in that moment.
“I’m so honoured to be part of an organisation that’s so committed to improving the lives of people of all ages with disabilities.”
Rudi, an Assistance Dogs Australia trained Educational Support Dog, is known by staff as the Chief Happiness Officer at No Boundaries Disability Support Inc. He is deeply loved by participants like Liz, who is pictured taking Rudi through an obstacle training course.
No Boundaries Disability Support Inc. is a QCOSS member organisation which provides support services to adults with disabilities, specialising in high/complex support needs. In addition to proudly developing and owning the No Boundaries Sensory Unit, the organisation provides day service supports from their premises at Margate. The team supports individuals with access and integration into the community, developing life skills, achieving goals and engaging with assistive technology through a wide range of programs to achieve their potential.