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Sensory Tools in the Arts: The Need to Normalize

Sensory tools are any tool that you can imagine, used to help increase or decrease the impact of sensory stimulation in the world around us. Often, we hear sensory tools described as "toys," imagining a room full of fidget spinners and slime. While the level of engagement provided in sensory tools can seem fun, how tools help us function in our world is what we need to consider.

In the arts, we use tools to help us everyday. We use tape to mark set pieces on stage, a palette to organize our paints, a piano or violin to help us tune. These tools help us to enact executive functions and prepare ourselves for performance and engagement, so why are sensory tools any different? Providing sensory safe- sensory normalized- spaces for artists, we are opening the doors and not just inviting artists in, we are creating with artists needs in mind.

There are a plethora of ways we can use sensory tools not just as tools, but as expansions into our arts programming. For sensory usage, Bubble poppers can help people to block out aural and visual stimuli, while providing an area of focus. With humanity and accessibility in mind, we can use this tool to enhance artistry. The sounds of bubble poppers can be used to create background noises in a musical performance. Using a bubble popper as a paint palette can allow for a new method of putting paint on a canvas. An actor using a bubble popper on stage can fill the space between lines in a script.

As artists, we're used to improvising and being flexible. Just as it was done on "Who's Line is it Anyway," we can take an item and imagine its' many other uses. We just need to take the next steps beyond imagination, and put them into action. Normalizing sensory tools in the arts may take some creative thinking, yes, but artists, it's a challenge we must be ready to explore in order to ensure our spaces are accessible for everyone.

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