Pippa has a sensory soother – we’ve nicknamed him “Flappy”. It’s actually a rubber iPhone case from Smiggle with a textured side. Pippa takes it with her everywhere (and we have about ten spares).
Recently, Flappy lived his best life coming to Disneyland Paris with us – he met characters, went on rides (even Thunder Mountain!) and was there for all the exciting moments. He appears in many photos if you look closely, and he even got some character interaction when Chip (a naughty chipmunk) took him playfully and pretended to hide him. Pippa took it well and understood the joke but was happy when Chip gave Flappy back!
There was a scary moment when Flappy got left on the Buzz ride and was MIA for half an hour but thankfully a kind ride attendant had found him and when I retraced our steps, Flappy and Pippa were reunited! (These are discontinued now so I can’t afford to lose one!)
The point is though, that Flappy isn’t a toy; it’s an object (of Pippa’s choosing) that helps her cope with new and unusual situations; keeps her calm; allows her gentle movement and sensory stimulation in places where she needs to sit still or wait quietly (eg cinemas, school lessons, hospital waiting rooms). The sensory feedback she gets from either stroking the textured side, sniffing the familiar smell or gently flapping it therefore giving sensory feedback up her arm, is just what she needs.
Before we had Flappy, she would get the sensory regulation she craved from teeth grinding, nail/cuticle picking (causing bleeding most days), tapping on surfaces (not ideal in school) or hair twirling (causing some hair loss).
At home, Pippa does have some other sensory soothers; clicking and unclicking two Duplo bricks together CONSTANTLY; slapbands – rolling and unrolling them to get the click; a swing chair outside in our garden; a head massager; a vibrating foot bath; “Sieve” (a plastic ELC utensil that flaps similarly to Flappy); – all great sensory soothers but none as silent or discreet as Flappy for taking out and about.
Sensory soothers are vital to people with sensory processing difficulties and sensitivities – they help prevent physical harm and provide the essential stimulus. Some soothers are sold for that purpose, others – like Flappy, Sieve and slapbands – are random items chosen by the user that provide them with what they need. Please be aware that what looks like an unnecessary item to you, may be a vital support to that person.