Qatar Foundation is partnering up with Sensory Souk to improve the accessibility of sensory tools for children with special needs.
Qatar Foundation (QF) has teamed up with Sensory Souk to provide increased access to educational tools and sensory fidget toys that support children with autism.
The partnership will make tools needed for education available for purchase in vending machines and gift shops around QF, including Multaqa (Education City Student Center), the Recreation Centre, QF Headquarters, and Oxygen Park.
These tools are uniquely designed to assist children with autism to concentrate in school and get accustomed to different learning settings.
“Some children get irritated by background noise, like students talking in the classroom, someone on the phone… 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.
She added that fidgets like ear defenders or noise-canceling headphones could help children easily transition into their learning environments without the hassle of moving around.
Sensory toys that can be touched or smelt, such as sand, slime, shaving foam, and ice, can heighten children’s senses, especially those with autism. According to Saraf, this will help them refocus their energy on their classes.
These sensory tools are beneficial not just for children with autism but also for children with related disorders. In many cases, students with sensory sensitivities struggle to fit into mainstream courses and maintain their focus.
According to Raana Smith, co-founder and manager of Sensory Souk, the collaboration began with Renad Academy which is part of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education. What first began as advising and supplying products to support the development of children later developed into a partnership that helped propel the cause to a wider reach.
So far, Sensory Souk has been active in Education City, participating in several events including ones held at Qatar National Library and Hamad Bin Khalifa University. In addition to selling ability-friendly products, it also serves as a platform to announce and host events, webinars, and discussions around autism.
This partnership comes as Qatar Foundation continues to diversify its commitment to inclusive learning for children with special needs, including autism. In 2018, it launched its pioneering ability-friendly program, which offers children with autism and other sensory sensitivities the opportunity to participate in extracurricular sports activities with the guidance of trained instructors. The program was designed as a response to the need for such spaces in the country.
Omer Abdulkader, commercial development specialist at Qatar Foundation, said: “We saw a clear synergy between some of QF’s values and Sensory Souk, and we wanted to expand our offerings in Education City to include ability-friendly products.” He also added that families could now have easier access to ability-friendly products which were in low supply in the country before.
With this new partnership with Sensory Souk, Qatar continues its progression to become a friendly environment for children with autism.