Qatar Foundation has teamed up with Sensory Souk to provide increased access to educational tools and sensory fidget toys that help children with autism.

Sensory Souk 5The tools, now available to purchase from vending machines and gift shops within Qatar Foundation, are designed to help children focus in school and adapt to different learning environments.

According to Sensory Souk co-Founder and Managing Director Alison Saraf, some children get irritated by background noise, like students talking in the classroom, someone (talking) on the phone, or even by the noise from a rotating 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.

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 toys that can be touched or smelled, such as sand, slime, shaving foam, and ice, can heighten the senses of children – especially those with autism – and provide the input they need to re-focus. Saraf added that other children prefer weighted products, such as vests or blankets.

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.

Raana Smith, another Sensory Souk co-Founder and Managing Director, said that initially, the team served as advisors and suppliers of products to support the learning and development of children with autism. The partnership has grown since then.

They 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.

Being mothers of children with additional needs, Saraf and Smith started the Sensory Souk as a passion project which aimed to bring the ASD community together, raise awareness around the disorder, and provide information to parents and family members.

Saraf said that currently, Sensory Souk not only sells ability-friendly products but also serves as a platform to announce and host events, webinars and discussions on autism.

Qatar Foundation Commercial Development Specialist Omer Abdulkader said they saw a clear synergy between Qatar Foundation and Sensory Souk, and they wanted to expand their offerings in Education City to include ability-friendly products. He shared that families now have easier access to these products, some of which are only available in a few places around the country.

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