In summer 2009, DeafBlind Ontario Services launched an exciting facet to the Program Module. Prior to the launch, a committee was formed who investigated several organizations and researched the benefits and feasibility of incorporating such a program. Our goal was to provide opportunities to enhance the life experiences of our clients. Our definition of a Sensory Excursion is “a trip taken by an individual who is deafblind for leisure and educational purposes. It is based on their dreams and provides opportunity for diversity and enhanced sensory experiences in their lives.”
Sensory Excursions focus on experiences that stimulate the client’s senses. As part of our person centered approach model, Sensory Excursions are based on their goals, wants, needs, desires, their various assessments (sensory, environmental, orientation/mobility, physio, etc.) and past history and experiences. The Sensory Excursion process also requires the client, with the assistance of their Intervenors, to research and develop an extensive itinerary and a variety of methods to budget/save. Since 2009, our clients have realized their dreams through numerous Sensory Excursions that have been provided by generous donors. By increasing their exposure to new experiences with a sensory theme, they have created memories to last a lifetime. After their excursion, clients create an experience tool to remember their time away. This may take the form of photographs, mementos and tactile cues to represent activities from their experience.
Above: Ray, Sarah and Sean enjoy their Sensory Excursion experiences. Each trip was tailored to their specific dreams.
Below is a first hand account of a Sensory Excursion taken by one of our clients, Terence:
“On July 6th I embarked on an adventure of a lifetime... My Intervenors and I made our way to the train station in Toronto where we embarked on a five hour train ride to Montreal, Quebec. After checking in to our beautiful hotel room, we quickly dropped our bags and headed out to start exploring the city. As we explored the streets of Montreal, we stumbled across the Montreal Jazz Festival and enjoyed true live jazz music. Of course when you visit Montreal, they say you must try a poutine, and oh boy did I ever! When they placed it in front of me, my Intervenors had to keep reminding that it was “ALL MINE”! I tried hard to finish it, but all I did was make a dent - delicious! Next, we saw the Michael Jackson Cirque de Soleil. At the show, I took in two full hours of lights, music, dancing, and acrobatics. I was so engrossed in the experience that I never took my eyes off the stage. Once the show ended, we headed to Baton Rouge, where I enjoyed a fancy late night burger.
The next morning, I got dressed in a jiffy - so unlike me! We set off to Caribfest to enjoy a parade where I was able to experience colorful floats, loud music, and bright costumes. I don’t normally love crowds, but this was unlike any other and I loved being in the heart of it. I danced, I laughed, and people watched. As we explored Old Montreal we spotted a horse and carriage, and what better way to explore the town than in the back of a carriage like a king. I could not stop spinning my head to look at all the cool sights including the buildings, the waterfront and of course the people. My laughter was uncontrollable.
Our driver was kind enough to make us a reservation at his favorite restaurant where we had rabbit stuffed with duck! Such a fancy meal, followed by a decadent dessert. As we walked off our amazing meal, we stumbled across a fountain in the middle of a courtyard. I was mesmerized and sat in front of the fountain gazing with a huge smile on my face for 20 minutes. When asked if I wanted to leave, I asked for more. ...It was the trip of a lifetime and I will never forget it!”
Above: Terence with Intervenor and parade dancer at Montreal's Caribfest 2012
“Have you ever watched someone’s mood change from uncertainty to complete relaxation within moments? Have you had the opportunity to watch an activity stimulate learning in an individual to the point where it has evolved into knowledge, right before your eyes? Have you seen thorough happiness and delight arise on someone’s face? I have been lucky enough to see this and more on Sensory Excursions!”
“The clients explored their environment with more and more confidence as each day passed. The relaxation on their faces and in their demeanor was so evident. The smiles of delight, the laughter as they explored, the quickness in their step or the unwinding at the end of the day, were all amazing to observe. Both clients, although so different as individuals, both exceeded any expectations we the IV’s may have had for them.”
“Having the opportunity to focus solely on the client and watch as they tried new experiences was so enlightening for me. I was able to experience activities in ways that I had never before. I was so aware of the sensory aspects of each activity. Both clients enriched my experience by their delight in not only the big activities such as gondolas, boat cruises, and ferris wheels but the little ones as well, like the gooey caramel on their dessert and the softness of the hotel towels. Every IV should experience this opportunity during their career!”