Susan Urban is much like any other grandmother. She loves her grandchildren. She thinks they are very special.
One of them is, indeed, very special. Jamesy has been diagnosed with a disorder called tuberous sclerosis. His body does not have the gene that suppresses tumors and he has several in his brain with a few also in his kidneys. He takes anti-seizure medication. As a result of his disease, he is on the autism spectrum.
Jamesy is 9 years old. He cannot speak. He loves to hum, though, and his favorite music is Christmas songs. He understands what people are saying and recognizes sounds, like the rustling of a potato chip bag. He is, indeed, very special.
When his grandmother, Susan, was looking for toys for Jamesy one Christmas, she wanted something that would help his development, and toys that he would enjoy. She came across a body sock and thought, “I could make that!” So Susan made one and started researching what else was available that might benefit and entertain Jamesy. She discovered a weighted blanket, a weighted snake, and a weighted lap pad. She began making them, and a little cottage industry was born.
The name she chose seven years ago for her little business is One Stop Sensory Shop, because autistic children have developmental difficulties processing sensory information. The disorder is called sensory processing disorder, or SPD. Their spatial awareness is impaired. Some children walk like they are off-balance; others suffer Angelman syndrome, Asperger syndrome, sleep disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). All can benefit from Susan’s products.
Her daughter, Stephanie, designed a website for the products, www.onestopsensoryshop.com.
Susan makes and ships her products for children all over the world, to places such as British Columbia, Australia, and Israel. Families are not her only customers. Major universities, including the Columbia University Medical School, buy these special products for teaching their medical students and for patients who are treated there.
Body socks and Jake the snake
The Body Sock is her most popular item. Children like the body sock because it touches every part of their skin. They feel enveloped, much like being in the womb or a safe cocoon. When babies are upset, nurses wrap them tightly in swaddling clothes. The Body Sock works much like that. I tried one on. I felt silly, but I wanted to know what the appeal was. Susan shared pictures of some of her customers’ children wearing their body socks and their smiles are evidence that they love the products.
“Jake, Jake, the sensory snake” is a weighted felt and fabric snake that weighs less than 5 pounds. Jake is adorable and comes in different colors. The fabric on his tummy is multi-colored puzzle pieces, the universal symbol for autism. Jake has a pretty pattern sewn down his back and two fun, safe, cloth eyeballs, and a nylon tongue that kids love to play with. One school in Virginia ordered 50 Jake snakes for the library for reading time. When the students are restless, the weighted snakes calm them down and allow everyone to enjoy story time.
Sometimes Susan’s body socks find other uses. Some customers have been using them for performance art and research.
One young lady from the Harvard Graduate School of Design bought a green body sock and wore it on the street as a colleague documented the reactions of passersby. Some just looked, while others climbed into the body sock as their friends filmed them and took pictures. She recently put their reactions on the Internet and just ordered five more body socks in black.
One dance studio ordered more than 25 body socks in green and yellow for a performance in which the dancers were going to be flowers.
Susan’s customer from Israel actually called to place his order. Other customers send letters, saying how much fun their kids have using Susan’s sensory products and how much they have benefited from them.
You can also find One Stop Sensory Shop on Facebook, where Susan offers advice to parents seeking help with their autistic children. She offers suggestions to help calm and entertain autistic kids. Her website features comments from happy and relieved parents.
Learning from play
Susan has learned much from her grandson, Jamesy. One of his favorite toys is a plastic coat hangar, which has been cut in a certain spot to promote the most movement when he waves it. He also loves tape and Velcro, which he has in a number of colors, given to him by his aunt.
Susan’s husband, James, is her greatest cheerleader. I could tell how proud he is of her efforts to help children and parents all over the world. James has benefited from her products, too; Susan’s weighted blanket helped him with his restless leg syndrome.
Susan’s love for Jamesy has spread love to countless children and families all over the globe.