The Gurgly Magic of Bubble Tubes - What’s your favourite bubble tube story?
A (very) long time ago I was privileged to be given the task of setting up a specialist nursery class for children with profound and complex learning difficulties. I look back with amazement at that time as at the start I had little idea of what I was doing. I quickly learnt!
I was lucky enough to obtain a grant from the RNIB to set up a Sensory Room, and my favourite piece of equipment in that resource was an Interactive Bubble Tube. It was the multi-sensory nature of the bubble tube that appealed to me, and that engaged many of the children – light, colour, vibration, moving bubbles and a bubbly noise, and easily controlled by the children using switches.
A memorable activity from those days was a sensory drama. The sensory room became a woodland environment for ‘A Walk in The Woods’. The bubble tube was a gurgling stream, complete with a tray of water and smooth pebbles in the base of it.
More recently, when I was head of an additional needs unit, we moved into a brand new school building. I had a fair amount of input into the design of our unit, including what went into the sensory room. What a responsibility – choosing for future, as well as current pupils. I knew that an interactive bubble tube was a must though and chose the bubble tube that linked with the SpaceMaster Controller. This gave us the flexibility to allow our pupils to have independent control of the bubble tube through an 8 way switch, or through individual switches, and in momentary, latched or timed mode, whatever matched each pupil’s assessed individual level of development.
One of our pupils, Amy, quickly confirmed that as a right choice! Amy was an eleven year old girl with severe and complex needs and with a big personality! Amy had just learnt to walk. She would often walk down the corridor continually working on her balance until she arrived at the sensory room door. She would then stop, sink to the floor and refuse to move until she was allowed in! How’s that for motivation and choice making?! She would then head straight for the bubble tube, slowly physically organise herself to climb up onto the bubble tube plinth, lean against the bubble tube with her cheek placed against it to feel the vibrations through her face. She would occasionally disentangle herself to change the colour using the 8 way switch and would sometimes switch the bubble tube off, listen intently, then switch it back on again. All this independent choice work happening from a girl with profound learning difficulties, limited mobility and visual impairment. Motivation and engagement were the key.
The bubble tube wasn’t the only piece of sensory room equipment that Amy engaged with, but it was clearly her favourite.
And back to my nursery teaching days. We sometimes had inclusive sessions with some of the mainstream nursery children from the room next door. They loved the sensory room and called it the Magic Light Room! It was a fantastic (magical) inclusive space.
So that’s some of my bubble tube stories. I’d be delighted to hear yours.
Retired Head Teacher - Joan Mckay
Joan kindly wrote this for us. It shows the value of cause and effect using switches. Momentry, Latch and timed programs are all part of switch progression learning.