The Qatar Foundation boosts access to autism-related tools for children
Doha: Qatar Foundation and Sensory Souk have teamed up to expand access to educational resources and sensory fidget toys for autistic children.
The tools are designed to help children focus in school and adapt to different learning environments, and are now available for purchase in vending machines and gift shops throughout Qatar Foundation (QF), including Multaqa (Education City Student Center), the Recreation Centre, the 2015 Building (QF Headquarters), and Oxygen Park.
“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 objects that can be handled or smelled, like sand, slime, shaving foam, and ice, can help children with autism re-focus, according to Saraf.
“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 noted. The relationship began with Renad Academy, which is part of QF’s Pre-University Education division.
“We have been involved in storytelling events at Qatar National Library, in Education City, and we have collaborated with Hamad Bin Khalifa University to translate an application we launched for children with autism,” said Raana Smith, another Sensory Souk Co-founder and Managing Director.
Initially, the team served as advisors and suppliers of products to support the learning and development of children with autism, but the partnership has grown since then.
Saraf and Smith founded the Sensory Souk as a passion project to bring the ASD community together, increase awareness about the illness, and provide information to parents and family members. They are both mothers of children with special needs.