The staff at Sensory Tool House, LLC in Lacey understand that holidays bring special food, events, family gatherings, music and packed schedules. While fun, these stimuli and disruptions to a daily routine can be extra stressful for the neurodivergent and disabled communities. That is why Sensory Tool House opened registration for a sensory friendly pumpkin patch event at its store on October 22, and soon will kick off registration for four Sensory Santa events in December.

Lauren Howard, Sensory Tool House's director of resources,  standing at the counter
Lauren Howard, Sensory Tool House’s director of resources, invites the neurodivergent and disabled communities and their allies to the inclusive pumpkin patch and Sensory Santa events. Photo credit: Nancy Krier

Sensory Tool House Recognizes Holidays Present Challenges for the Neurodiverse and Disabled Communities

“Expectations can be anxiety building for both parents and kiddos,” says Lauren Howard, Sensory Tool House’s director of resources, in describing the holidays. “It can be hard for parents if their child is expressing differently.” Howard knows this first-hand as the mother of three neurodivergent children, as well as a military wife who often experiences the challenges surrounding transitions in the household. She understands that the holidays can bring extra pressures to families who may already be feeling strained.

Multiple stimuli during the holidays can be overwhelming, particularly if a person is sensitive to crowds, or to certain sounds, smells, tastes or tactile sensations. This overload can trigger negative reactions and diminish enjoyment.

Sensory Tool House supports these individuals by offering ways to reduce sensory triggers and help them experience a more peaceful holiday. That’s why Sensory Tool House is hosting two sensory friendly inclusive holiday events.

a pile of pumpkins at
Sensory Tool House will use locally sourced pumpkins for its October 22 inclusive pumpkin patch event at its Lacey store. Visit the store website for details on the sensory friendly and accessible event, and to register. Photo credit: Nancy Krier

Sensory Tool House’s Inclusive Sensory Friendly Pumpkin Patch October 22

Sensory Tool House staff organized an inclusive pumpkin patch as a new event at the store on October 22. “A pumpkin patch can be an overwhelming place,” says Howard. “There are unknown sounds, unknown smells, people taking photos, and families saying, ‘pick a pumpkin!’ It can be cold and wet. This can create a lot of anxiety surrounding something that should be fun. Our goal is to bring back the fun.”

Advance registration for the limited spaces for this inclusive fall activity is required. You can select one of three sessions. The $25 per pumpkin artist fee covers a locally sourced pumpkin, craft supplies, paint, cider and snacks. Pumpkin carving tools will be available. Sensory Tool House staff will be on hand to help participants.

The first session is pumpkin painting only, for persons who may be sensitive to the feel or smell of extracted pumpkin pulp and seeds. The second and third sessions are pumpkin carving with paint available.

Sensory Tool House in Lacey sensory items
Sensory Tool House in Lacey offers sensory items and activity space for the neurodivergent and disabled communities. Photo credit: Nancy Krier

Howard says Sensory Tool House’s community room will be set up like a pumpkin patch. Instead of hay bales which are rough and can trigger allergies, the “bales” will be wrapped in fabric. “We bought fabric that looks like hay, but without the smell or texture of hay,” says Howard. She says a pumpkin patch backdrop will also be available for family photos.

Costumes are optional. Howard explains that to support a sensory-friendly, inclusive and accessible environment, costumes should not be “scary” or “bloody.” “Some persons in the neurodivergent community are very literal,” she says. “If they see ‘blood’ they may think you are really injured. We want this to be a fun, safe experience for everyone.”

This event provides a Halloween experience without crowds or a mess at home. “We want them to get the outcome of an activity that maybe they wouldn’t have in a traditional pumpkin patch,” adds Howard.

Sensory Tool House in Lacey is offering four Sensory Santa events in December.
Sensory Tool House in Lacey is offering four Sensory Santa events in December. The events reduce stimuli with lower lights and sounds in a calm environment. See the store website for upcoming registration details. Photo courtesy: Sensory Tool House

Sensory Tool House’s Sensory Santa Events December 4, 11, 12 and 18

Last year, Sensory Tool House had great success with a Sensory Santa event. Howard says they are bringing it back and expanding it. Advance registration is also required for the December 4, 11, 12 and 18 events. More details will be posted soon on the Sensory Tool House website.

Sensory Santa also offers a calmer but still fun and inclusive holiday experience. “We will keep the lights low,” says Howard. “There will be a lit Christmas tree. Our Santa will not ring bells or loudly say, ‘Ho, ho, ho.’” Photos with Santa will be available, in a gentle environment, plus other activities. This video shows visitors to last year’s Sensory Santa event which Howard says sold out fast.

Sensory Tool House’s Ongoing Events and Supportive Products

Sensory Tool House’s holiday events are just two of its accessible programs. Other ongoing events include a pop-up library with Timberland Regional Library, a toddler play group, art with the Hands On Children’s Museum and yoga. Sensory Tool House offers a wide range of supportive products including toys, weighted and compression clothing, adaptive seating options, swings, books, utensils and more.

Neurodivergence Definition

Neurodivergence covers a wide range, for example, a person is on the autism spectrum, or has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or other brain features causing a uniqueness in cognitive processing.

Sensory Tool House, LLC
5831 Lacey Boulevard SE Suite J, Lacey


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