Banbury Howard

Getting to know our clients

At Banbury Howard, we’re really nosey. We like to get to know our clients and find out exactly what makes them tick. To this end, some of us undertook a sensory training course offered by one of our clients, Sensing Change.

Sensing Change is East Anglia’s leading provider of social work, rehabilitation and support for people with hearing and/or sight loss. Their service enables people to gain, regain or maintain independent living in their own homes and in the community. Highly trained staff members also provide sensory training to enable sighted and hearing people to appreciate what it’s like to suffer sensory loss.

We were initially taken through the various ways in which someone could lose their sight. Our trainers, Lisa and Tina, encouraged us to try on a series of glasses, which simulated different eye conditions, such as macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic sight loss. We then went out onto the street outside Sensing Change’s offices and took it in turns to guide another trainee who was wearing an eye mask to replicate sight loss. We found that not only was it quite scary, but we noticed that our other senses seemed to become a little bit sharper to compensate for the loss of our sight. We learned how to best lead someone with limited sight – and it wasn’t as obvious as you’d think. As the person leading, you need to be very aware of the surroundings and notice how relatively small obstacles can pose a potentially big problem for someone with limited or no sight.

Back inside the Sensing Change centre, working in twos, one person in each pair put plugs in their ears and donned industrial ear defenders. Lisa and Tina had us speak to the ‘deaf’ person in each pair, so that we could understand the importance for a person with hearing loss to see the face and mouth of the person who is talking. It became obvious that many sounds in speech involve very similar mouth movements, so lip reading is a real art and we soon learned how difficult it could be to communicate.

In the final part of our training, we put eye masks and ear defenders on so that we were effectively blind and deaf. We just stood together in the training room and tried to get used to this sensory deprivation. After only a few minutes, we noticed that the body has a tendency to start to sway. Lisa told us that this was normal, and that if you aren’t holding onto something like a chair or a doorframe, you are likely to fall over. It was a very disconcerting feeling. Lisa and Tina then led each of us out of the training room and down a corridor. I was led into another room – I assumed -and my hand was placed on a wall so that I was able to stand with some sense of stability. Although I knew more or less where I was and that this was not a ‘real’ situation, I felt extremely vulnerable. Of course, I was able to take off my eye mask and ear defenders and make my way back to the training room, but imagining a world in which I couldn’t do that and in which I would be reliant on others to help me to find my way, was a very humbling experience.

My Banbury Howard co-trainees and I found it immensely useful and really interesting to undertake Sensing Change’s sensory awareness training. It gave us some great insight and it means that we’ll have a better understanding of the services and support they offer when we’re working on their behalf.

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