#166 - Education + Sensory with Kirstie Wishart, Founder of Starfish in NSW, Australia

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC August 18, 2021

#166 - Education + Sensory with Kirstie Wishart, Founder of Starfish in NSW, Australia

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Education + Sensory with Kirstie Wishart, Founder of Starfish in NSW, Australia

On today’s episode of All Things Sensory, we are joined by a very special guest from Australia! 

Kirstie Wishart is a teacher, sensory educator, educational consultant, and founder of the Starfish Store, an education sensory and specialized store based in New South Wales, Australia. Her business also offers one-on-one tutoring for people of all ages who struggle with learning disabilities and stocks Harkla products like the Harkla Hug and compression swing. 

We talk with Kirstie about raising her four sons, one of whom is dyslexic, while working in special education. You’ll hear Kirstie break down how she teaches functional maths to students as well as some of the products she sells at Starfish and how she uses them with her students. 

Later we discuss the gap between sensory teaching and the undergraduate education that teachers receive and what Kirstie’s hopes are for the future of sensory learning. Kirstie shares her advice for other teachers and why she believes podcasts are a meaningful and effective way of spreading good information. 

To hear more of Kirstie’s knowledgeable insights, join us today as we discuss all things sensory and education!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Kirstie’s work as a teacher and how one of her children was diagnosed with dyslexia.
  • The story of why she called her educational and sensory store Starfish.
  • What she does: providing people with learning disabilities with one-on-one tutoring.
  • Some other initiatives she is involved with, like helping children in the foster care system.
  • How Kirstie teaches functional math.
  • A breakdown of some of the products that she offers in the Starfish store.
  • How the Harkla Hug and Shmoosho products helped her in teaching one of her students.
  • Why Kirstie hopes to see more sensory techniques being incorporated into classrooms.
  • How to educate teachers on how to use sensory strategies in the classroom.
  • The one-on-one shopping assistance Starfish offers how they have adapted during COVID..
  • Her plans for producing more of their own resources, like free printable cards for teachers.
  • A discussion on the difficulties of burnout and the privilege of working one on one.
  • Kirstie shares her primary advice with listeners.

Highlights:

“We love doing what we’re doing. It’s good for the ego. You’ll probably find that too, if you’re really honest. It makes you feel so good. It brings you such joy when you can help somebody else. ” — Kirstie Wishart[00:09:17]

“If I had to sum it up, I would say every single thing is chosen in order to help children, adults, families learn, whether it is academic, whether it is sensory, whether it is social.” — Kirstie Wishart[00:14:43]

“If I had known the benefit of respiration, breath control, blowing bubbles, etcetera for self-regulation – some of those kids that I taught over the years in a mainstream classroom, these simple strategies, they work.” — Kirstie Wishart[00:21:56]

“My number one thing is connecting with the child or client, connecting with other professionals. [The] number one thing is connecting. ” — Kirstie Wishart[00:36:30]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Kirstie Wishart on LinkedIn

Starfish

Starfish on Facebook

Starfish on Instagram

Harkla Hug

Compression swing

Smoosho

Harkla

All Things Sensory on Instagram

All Things Sensory on Facebook

 

Full Show Transcript

[00:00:02] RH: Hey, there. I’m Rachel.

 

[00:00:03] JH: And I’m Jessica, and this is All Things Sensory by Harkla. Together, we’re on a mission to help children, families, therapists, and educators live happy, healthy lives.

 

[00:00:13] RH: We dive into all things sensory, special needs, occupational therapy, parenting, self-care and so much more. In each episode, we share raw, honest, fun ideas and strategies for everyone to implement into daily life.

 

[00:00:26] JH: Thank you so much for joining us.

 

[EPISODE]

 

[00:00:31] RH: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to All Things Sensory. Welcome if this is your first episode you’re listening to. If that is the case, this is a good one to listen to.

 

[00:00:41] JH: Yep. We’re Rachel and Jessica and we are going to have a conversation with somebody in Australia.

 

[00:00:49] RH: Woohoo!

 

[00:00:48] JH: Love when we get to talk to people on the other side of the world. 

 

[00:00:53] RH: We actually met this wonderful person through Harkla. We’ll share more of those details in the podcast episode, but we can go ahead and let you meet Kirstie. Hi, Kirstie. How are you today?

 

[00:01:08] KW: I’m great. Thank you. Lovely to finally get to meet you two.

 

[00:01:14] RH: Yes, likewise.

 

[00:01:15] JH: Yeah. No, we’ve heard a lot about you so we’re excited to see you kind of face-to-face.

 

[00:01:20] RH: Kind of sort of that.

 

[00:01:21] JH: Kind of in real life.

 

[00:01:22] KW: Isn’t it amazing that we can do this? 

 

[00:01:25] JH: Oh, it’s unbelievable.

 

[00:01:26] RH: So true.

 

[00:01:27] JH: For our listeners, we are recording this on a Thursday at 2:30 in the afternoon. Kirstie is in Australia and it is currently 6:30 Friday morning for her. We’re very grateful that she took the time out of her —

 

[00:01:40] RH: Morning. Her morning.

 

[00:01:41] JH: Her morning, yes. Got her out of bed super early to chat with us and share her story, so thank you.

 

[00:01:49] KW: Yeah. Always happy to chat. Always [inaudible 00:01:51] to pick your brains too.

 

[00:01:53] RH: Oh! That’s why we love having a podcast guest on who will pick our brains as well.

 

[00:01:58] JH: Yes. Before we start asking you about what you do, who you are, we do a five-secret questions that we’re going to ask you so that everyone can know your deepest, darkest secrets.

 

[00:02:09] KW: Okay. 

 

[00:02:11] RH: She knows we do secret questions.

 

[00:02:14] JH: She’s been listening.

 

[00:02:15] KW: Yeah, it’s true.

 

[00:02:15] RH: So hopefully these are new ones.

 

[00:02:16] KW: Yeah, it’s true. Oh God! No! I practiced the one that you ask all the time.

 

[00:02:22] JH: Oh no!

 

[00:02:25] RH:Oh! We’ve had someone do that before [inaudible 00:02:26]. I love it. Okay. So we’re going to throw you off the loop for sure on these. 

 

[00:02:32] KW: Okay.

 

[00:02:33] RH: Okay. First one, would you rather have a nose bleed every day or stub your toe every day?

 

[00:02:42] KW: Oh! Stub my toe.

 

[00:02:44] JH: Let’s clean up.

 

[00:02:45] RH: Yeah. I’ve never had a nose bleed before, so I don’t know. Not good.

 

[00:02:51] JH: Not good.

 

[00:02:52] RH: No.

 

[00:02:53] JH: Okay. What dessert could you eat every single day?

 

[00:02:58] KW: Chocolate. Chocolate coated almonds. Does that count as a dessert?

 

[00:03:03] JH: Totally.

 

[00:03:04] RH: I think so. Anything chocolate is dessert.

 

[00:03:07] KW: [Inaudible 00:03:07] really.

 

[00:03:09] JH: True.

 

[00:03:10] RH: That’s fair. I love you. Okay. What is something that you’re reading right now?

 

[00:03:16] KW: I’m reading fiction. Mostly, I do read nonfiction [inaudible 00:03:23]. I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s something about Norman, it’s a new release. It’s actually quite new, but [inaudible 00:03:34] story. I have to let you know about the name of it is. I’m not very good with detail, girls, so I don’t tend to remember —

 

[00:03:41] RH: I don’t either.

 

[00:03:43] KW: Damn it! I should [inaudible 00:03:44] the book.

 

[00:03:44] RH: But it’s good, right? All right. That’s okay. What is your favorite no technology activity?

 

[00:03:54] KW: At the moment, riding mountain e-bikes, fantastic, love it.

 

[00:04:01] RH: Okay. Say that again? Mountain what now?

 

[00:04:04] KW: You know like mountain bikes.

 

[00:04:06] RH: Yeah.

 

[00:04:07] KW: [Inaudible 00:04:07] We’ve got electric mountain bikes now.

 

[00:04:12] RH: Oh!

 

[00:04:14] KW: Oh my God! So much fun. I just — yeah, I’m addicted.

 

[00:04:19] RH: Okay. I am going to have to say though. This is a non-technology question.

 

[00:04:26] JH: Does that count as technology?

 

[00:04:27] RH: I don’t know.

 

[00:04:29] JH: It’s motorized. Does that count?

 

[00:04:31] KW: When you think [inaudible 00:04:32] you need a motive a little bit.

 

[00:04:35] RH: We’ll give it to you.

 

[00:04:36] JH: I was going to say, dang, you’re like an adventurer. 

 

[00:04:42] KW: It is fun. A bit of a risk taker, yeah. I actually just had stitches taken out because I’ve had a stuck.

 

[00:04:49] RH: Oh no!

 

[00:04:50] KW: I know.

 

[00:04:52] JH: Smiles.

 

[00:04:52] RH: That’s awesome. You’re a sensory seeker then, so this would lead us into our next question. What is your sensory quirk?

 

[00:04:58] KW: I do get overloaded, so I think probably because running — you know what it’s like. You’re running businesses, you’ve got family and [inaudible 00:05:08]. Specially like your profession and in mind, it is heftily. Giving relationship-based provision. I do get drained and I can’t handle any sound of just — I’m making exception on Thursday mornings driving to work, listening to your podcast.

 

[00:05:30] RH: Yay! Hopefully we’re not to obnoxious for you.

 

[00:05:38] KW: No, no. I always learn at least one or two things, so yeah. No, it’s definitely a cross I’m willing to pay. But normally, absent silence, plus, I just can’t handle any more input.

 

[00:05:51] RH: Got you.

 

[00:05:51] JH: Yeah, that’s fair.

 

[00:05:54] RH: Yeah.

 

[00:05:53] JH: For sure. Okay. Now, can you tell our listeners who you are and what you do, how and why and all the things?

 

[00:06:03] KW: Okay. Obviously, my name is Kirstie and I’m a teacher by trade. I have four sons and all grown up now. I ended up doing like [inaudible 00:06:16] spread in special education, so disability issues, managing challenging behavior. Very classroom based. Teaching children with specific learning difficulties and disabilities, that sort of thing. Ended up teaching at uni for about seven years and coordinating [inaudible 00:06:38] subjects.

 

That’s how I sort of ended up. One of my sons is dyslexic. I realized now, 30 years later, he would have been diagnosed with Aspergers. He didn’t talk until he was two and half, had lots of the traits that in the [inaudible 00:06:57] would have — obviously, Aspergers isn’t in [inaudible 00:07:01]. I was diagnosed with auditory processing disorder.

 

[00:07:06] RH: Oh, wow!

 

[00:07:07] KW: Yeah. A couple of things like that. [Inaudible 00:07:10], but funny when you’re able to teach or in the profession, sometimes you miss things and you —

 

[00:07:18] RH: Absolutely. It’s true.

 

[00:07:20] KW: But I actually didn’t know what I know now. I didn’t know it then. It’s embarrassing sometimes. Even when I was lecturing and teaching like undergrad teachers, I did not know anything about all things sensory. I certainly started to go — that’s when I was doing my masters, I did a lot of work and research on [inaudible 00:07:45] primitive reflexes and the loop with the ATNR and dyslexia. As you find this, all these little doors that open and you end up going on [inaudible 00:07:59] like this journey or path that leads me to that right now.

 

Yeah, [inaudible 00:08:05] I have — it’s a shock, but we ran a consultancy there. For children and young adults with specific learning needs often with disabilities, so we provide one-to-one tutoring. It tends to be quite a frequency, and like half our sessions several times a week because we find that gets the best results. We had our store, Starfish, that’s called Starfish. Have you heard that — my husband said, don’t get off track, but I do get off track.

 

Have you heard that fable of starfish and the little boy on the beach?

 

[00:08:45] RH: I don’t know.

 

[00:08:46] KW: All the starfish had washed up onto the shore and he was walking on the beach and picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean. An old guy came along and said, “What are you doing that for? There are thousands. It’s not going to make any difference.” The little boy picked up another one and threw it back into the ocean. He said, “Well, I helped that one.”

 

[00:09:07] RH: I have heard that before.

 

[00:09:11] KW: Yeah, it’s a beautiful story, isn’t it? Anyway, that’s [inaudible 00:09:13] why we called it Starfish. Yeah, we love doing what we’re doing. It’s good for the ego. You’ll probably find that too if you’re really honest, it makes you feel so good. It brings you such joy when you can help somebody else. They’ll leave feeling better about themselves or parents feeling more confident, and happier that they’re on tract, or got some ideas or whatever. [Inaudible 00:09:38] Typically, I get off track.

 

[00:09:42] RH: Well, I’m going to go off track too. I didn’t realize that you did one-on-one consulting and tutoring at Starfish.

 

[00:09:48] JH: That’s what I was going to ask about, what is the tutoring for?

 

[00:09:52] KW: Yeah. Mostly, we focus on. One of my other tutors, she and I talk together [inaudible 00:09:58] uni. She has a PhD in adult dyslexia. We work with all ages, children and young adults that have had enormous difficulties learning to read. We also do provide tutoring for those with what we would call functional maths. It’s not mainstream maths, it’s more about getting hit around how our number system works, learning to tell the time. Almost like [inaudible 00:10:34], things for independent living. Very straight-based, success-based so that you can — because it’s really actually easier to teach kids and adults to tell the time on an analog clock. It’s not hard at all. Once they know, it’s like a skill that they can tip off and they can, “Well, I can tell the time.” Yeah, things like that.

 

We also do — of course I’ve got a background doing trauma-related teaching. I run a consultancy. We’re right next door to — what’s the equivalent of foster care? I’m not sure what you guys — over here, it’s called out of home care. We run a consultancy working mostly at those children and young people. By the time they get to us, it’s usually when [inaudible 00:11:20] it’s sad as well —

 

[00:11:23] RH: Yeah.

 

[00:11:25] KW: And they, shall we say disengaged from school? Usually, they’re on long-term suspensions or school refusal or something like that. We’re one-to-one with those kids. Often, they are hugely, it’s from the age of eight up to about 15, but it does vary.

 

[00:11:44] RH: Yeah! Wow! You guys do a lot. No kidding.

 

[00:11:47] KW:Yeah. Look, it’s fun, isn’t it? It’s interesting. It’s [inaudible 00:11:50] and it’s, I guess you do — it doesn’t get boring, does it? There’s always — like there’s all this little ear. Sometimes you just don’t have availability and you can’t fit people in, all that stuff is draining. Especially from [inaudible 00:12:07], yeah.

 

[00:12:09] RH: That’s when you just have to clone yourself.

 

[00:12:12] KW: Yeah. You know you’re burnout, don’t you find? Do you find that? It’s that training and that’s one of the things that’s great about podcasts is, you guys are so generous with all the things, your tips, and tricks, and strategies and the background information, that theory and the why as well. It’s helping other people, so it’s about upskilling others.

 

[00:12:36] RH: It’s almost like you can help more people by doing something like a podcast where we can teach what we’ve learned and what’s helped us to other people, who then can go implement that with the people they work with and make [inaudible 00:12:50] on the one little starfish. It would make a difference.

 

[00:12:52] KW: That’s right.

 

[00:12:53] RH:I love that. Oh, I love that.

 

[00:12:56] JH: I do too. Okay. Can I ask what’s the trick to teaching kids how to tell time? I’m curious.

 

[00:13:04] KW: Okay. At least on our website, so there are three steps. The first step is, we always say to the kids what hand do you look at. You direct their attention. The first thing they do when they ever look at a clock, because clocks are quite busy to look at. If a clock is different, that’s a new clock every time. You just say, what hand you look at and that gives them something to zero in on. It’s always the big hand. Then you ask, “What hand do you look at?” The big hand.

 

Then you ask yourself, “Where is it?” If it’s on the 12, then you know it’s an o’clock. If it’s on the six, it’s half past. If it’s on the past side, or the two side, it’s subtract. What hand do you look at? Where is it? Then we say, “Where do you start counting from?” You always start counting from the top. If it’s on the past side of the big hand, then you start counting that way. If it’s on the two side, we start counting that way. 

 

Honestly, it’s three easy steps.

 

[00:14:02] RH: Interesting.

 

[00:14:02] KW: You just say, “You guys would do this all the time, it’s just the same. Unless [inaudible 00:14:07] teaching them how to think. We teach those three steps and they can apply it to any clock anywhere.

 

[00:14:16] RH: That’s cool. I’m glad you asked.

 

[00:14:17] JH: There you go.

 

[00:14:19] KW: Typical it’s long-winded like me. You need a cup of coffee.

 

[00:14:27] JH: I like it.

 

[00:14:28] RH: I love it. It’s good. Oh, so good. Okay. Well, let’s talk a little bit about some of the products that you offer in your shop. Can you tell our listeners what types of goodies, because you have so many things in your shop? What are some of the goodies that you offer?

 

[00:14:42] KW: Yeah, we do. If I had to sum it up, I would say every single thing is chosen in order to help children, adults, families learn, whether it is academic, whether it is sensory, whether it is social or even if it’s something just for — well, hopefully, most things I can. They’re all education or sensory items or specialized items. Things like the other day, we just bought in some beautiful aboriginal dolls, because we’re also about what diversity and inclusivity. We have lots of girls with Down Syndrome. 

 

[00:15:29] RH: Oh, that’s cool.

 

[00:15:30] KW: I hope that sums it up. I could go on and on. But it is all about helping people choose the items that are going to help them progress.

 

[00:15:40] RH: Yes. The reason why I asked is because you sell Harkla’s products in your shop.

 

[00:15:45] KW: We do.

 

[00:15:46] RH: That’s kind of how we all got connected is you sell their products, which clearly are meant for sensory exploration and regulation as well, so it go right along with what goal you’re trying to achieve.

 

[00:15:59] KW: Funny. Yeah, actually, would you believe? I was already following you girls and I could not believe it. Don’t you just love this world? 

 

[00:16:09] RH: It’s amazing.

 

[00:16:10] KW: I could not believe [inaudible 00:16:08]. It’s amazing. Anyway, I actually stumbled on how Harkla products online somehow. I split them off an email and said, “Look, I really love your stuff. Does anyone stock them in Australia? Can I source them? Blah, blah, blah.” They said, “No. We’ll send some to you, a sample.” Then oh my God! I was so impressed with the quality. That comes first, absolute quality. The packaging, the care, the detail. The pricing is good, I find. 

 

As I’ve got to know Harkla, I’ve also come to realize they’re all about principles. Like I said, can you guys do a [inaudible 00:17:06].

 

[00:17:08] RH: Yes.

 

[00:17:08] JH: Yeah.

 

[00:17:09] KW: They’ve actually said, “You know what? We would, but we can’t see how we can add value. Meaning, if somebody’s already doing it, if we can’t do it better, why would we? I thought, “These people are the right people for me. I love the way they operate.”

 

[00:17:26] RH: Yes.

 

[00:17:26] KW: Yeah, they’re just terrific. I have used — I use the Harkla products all the time, with the exception of the bedsheets, only because I don’t need to. But I’ve got one little boy at the moment, for tutoring. He’s about 10, he’s has ADHD, possibly on a spectrum undiagnosed at this point, unmedicated. On Friday afternoon when he comes for tutoring, one of his sessions is at five o’clock in the afternoon. It was hard work. I worked hardest in that 30 minutes than [inaudible 00:17:58]. 

 

[00:17:59] JH: For sure.

 

[00:18:00] KW: Anyway, in the end, I am — well, not in the end. After a couple of weeks, I put him on a [inaudible 00:18:07] on a carpet, so we had to work extra hard and get some heavy work in and work on his core. He’d race around the shop. It’s a big shop and he had to beat a timer, typical boys. I’ve got four sons, I have four brothers, so boys like to win. [Inaudible 00:18:25] to all of that. He’d have to try and race around the shop and beat the timer. Then I’d put him into the Harkla compressing swing. One of the issues he has is, so for instance, the teachers gave [inaudible 00:18:39] a task. Should junk food be sold in the school canteen? He said, “Yes, because it’s delicious.” Everyone [inaudible 00:18:51] hour and that’s all he did. Like it took him — [inaudible 00:18:58].

 

It was about getting him to fill out his answers and be able to think of other and contribute more, basically. I put him in the Harkla compression swing. I was basically pushing him, linear movements and in a rhythmic sort of rocking. Interestingly, the body part that was facing me was his head, but it was all in the compression swing. I was actually pushing against his head gently. You could see him visibly calm. He came out with about five or six reasons to justify why and we just couldn’t believe it.

 

Then we put him in the Harkla Hug with a weighted lap pad on his chest and with a giant smoosho. When it was his turn to talk, he got the smoosho, so he was getting lots and lots of vestibular and then that deep pressure. Academically engaged time through the roof. From then on, wow, I always use that strategy with him. These guys is putting him on the Harkla Hug but all with the clipboard. This is a kid that would basically refuse to write anything. I found those products just, ah, I always recommend them. They’re just unreal.

 

[00:20:13] RH: I love stories like that so much.

 

[00:20:14] JH: I know. It’s true though that it’s just that movement can help facilitate that learning. Do you use the different product with all of your students that you tutor?

 

[00:20:24] KW: No. Tutoring and matching is part of the, I guess, the skill, isn’t it? 

Even the teaching, knowing where they’re at so that you know where to start is part of the skill, I guess. But not everybody needs — we do have most things available. Like even wobble cushions and things, or pin up sensor [inaudible 00:20:46] or whatever. We do have those sets of things available, but all on needs basis.

 

[00:20:53] JH:Yeah, for sure.

 

[00:20:56] RH: Oh my goodness! How fun? I just — you’re not in the occupational therapy field, you’re in the education field. But to see those stories and to see those light bulbs, and I bet the little boy was like, “Oh my gosh! Look at what I can do. Look what I’m capable of” with these strategies.

 

[00:21:14] KW: Right, yeah. What’s sad is that, in Australia at least or kind of — U.S. has been ahead of the game in terms of like incorporating sensory space into schools. That’s only just starting over here. But even at our teacher training level, we just is not or was not a part of our undergrad training. I think it’s a real disconnect. But now, there’s a lot of sharing and partly because of social media, the podcasts and things. So many of us are learning all of the strategies that — if I had known the benefit of respiration, breath control, blowing bubbles, et cetera for self-regulation, some of those kids that I taught over the years in a mainstream classroom, this simple strategy, they work. I didn’t know either of them.

 

[00:22:13] RH: I don’t think most people do. I don’t know if we can say this, but we’re working on a course, getting sensory strategies for teachers. We’re teaching educators how to get sensory strategies into the classroom, mainstream, for everyone in the classroom. Just because I feel like it’s such a disconnect.

 

[00:22:32] KW: Yeah. 

 

[00:22:34] JH: It is. Once you see it work —

 

[00:22:34] KW: Yeah, I agree and I think that — yeah, oh, totally. Once you see them work, then — couple of months ago, I went to a primary school for the staff training, because they’ve got a sensory library equipment that they actually bought from us. I asked for [inaudible 00:22:53]? Only one-third. Mostly because, they didn’t know how those things could help [inaudible 00:23:06] therefore then as a teacher. But they also didn’t know how to use them. I put together resources, not [inaudible 00:23:14]. Forty little, simple, easy ways to incorporate [inaudible 00:23:20]. That’s the other thing too. You guys and myself, it’s an absolute privilege being able to work one-to-one. [Inaudible 00:23:31] might have 25 or 30. 

 

The stuff that I can do or you guys can do in a [inaudible 00:23:39] particular clinics or therapy environment can be a little bit different. It’s tried upon those things that are practical as well in a classroom.

 

[00:23:48] RH: Absolutely! That don’t necessarily require equipment or attention drawn to other kiddos, that it’s just — it almost — we want it to be second nature, that educators are looking at their classroom and thinking, how can I implement a sensory strategy to engage everybody.

 

[00:24:05] JH: Then it’s just part of the daily routine.

 

[00:24:09] KW: Yeah. I think that they’re working towards that. I think certain — obviously some, many of our teacher and I know this because I was the lecturer. We’re not taught the importance and the value, but if they do see the benefits, they now commit to it. Plus, it helps their teaching. They’ll have a better day as a teacher. 

 

[00:24:36] JH: Absolutely!

 

[00:24:36] RH: Yeah, I know. Jessica came over today and she was like, “Oh! This wasn’t working and this wasn’t working.” She was just like grumpy, which I don’t blame her. 

 

[00:24:44] JH: Thanks.

 

[00:24:45] RH: I mean, you were. I said, “Why don’t you go upstairs and swing in the compression swing?” It’s what I had hang up. She’s like, “I think I need to.” It’s great. We all need those sensory mediums to help our grumpiness.

 

[00:24:59] JH: It’s so true.

 

[ADVERTISEMENT]

 

[00:25:02] RH: We just want to take a minute and talk to you about our company, Harkla. Our mission at Harkla is to help those with special needs special needs live happy healthy lives. Not only do we accomplish this through the podcast, but we also have therapy products, easy to follow digital courses and the Harkla Sensory Club to try to bring holistic care to you and your family.

 

[00:25:20] JH:Listeners of the All Things Sensory podcast get 10% off their first purchase at Harkla with a discount code, “Sensory.” We’d recommend checking out some of our best-sellers, like the compression sensory swing, weighted blankets or our course on sensory diets. 

 

[00:25:35] RH: Here’s the best part, 1% of each sale gets donated to the University of Washington Autism Center to support autism research and fund scholarships to families in need to receive in-clinic therapy for their child.

 

[00:25:47] JH: Learn more about Harkla and all we have to offer at harkla.co. Don’t forget to use the discount code “sensory” to get 10% off your first purchase. That’s S-E-N-S-O-R-Y for 10% off.

 

[00:26:08] RH: The best part is, all Harkla orders come with a lifetime guarantee and free shipping.

 

[00:26:15] JH: You really can’t beat that.

 

[00:26:16] RH: No.

 

[00:26:17] JH: No, you can’t. Okay. Let’s go back to the show.

 

[EPISODE CONTINUES]

 

[00:26:21] RH: I did see on your website that you offer one-on-one, like shopping assistance. Tell us about that.

 

[00:26:29] JH: Yeah. I’ve never seen that before.

 

[00:26:32] KW: Yeah. I think it would be something that really pops up quite regularly now. We did initiate it at start of COVID, because we had to close our doors. Many of our customers and families have loved one with disabilities. Some find it very difficult to actually assess some shops, maybe what their child might be able to run out or sometimes, they’ve got their hands full and they’ve just got nothing left in their energy bag to be able to get out, but they need some help. Like we were talking about before, finding the right match with the resources, or games or whatever to support their child or love one.

 

Virtual shopping is basically, they can hop onto FaceTime, they can Zoom. There are lots of different ways that we can connect. We will actually — it’s nearly as good as being in school. We call it virtual shopping, so they can make an appointment, they get one of our stuff who are quite well-trained for pretty well half an hour to themselves. We can walk around the shops, we can — okay. Do you think this one or this color? This is — [inaudible 00:27:45] choose and how they vary in, say, level of resistance or trifecta. You can actually show people — it’s like ordering online. 

 

[00:27:55] JH: It is, yes.

 

[00:27:57] KW: [Inaudible 00:27:57] our families. We might say, “Oh! Have you thought about this?” or “Have you thought about that?” One thing can lead to another once you get an idea of what’s happening within [inaudible 00:28:10]. That’s virtual shopping.

 

[00:28:12] RH: I love that idea.

 

[00:28:13] JH: That is so helpful, for real.

 

[00:28:14] RH: I could think of so many people who could use that, just to have someone touch, and feel it, and move it. Even if the kiddo can watch and be a part of it too, they can have a say if they’re unable to go out and see it in real life.

 

[00:28:27] KW: Yeah, that’s right. Really, if the kiddo gets to choose and have some choice, they’re more likely to own that resource or game and take it on.

 

[00:28:37] JH: For sure.

 

[00:28:39] RH: Absolute. Oh my goodness! That’s so cool. I never would have thought about that.

 

[00:28:44] JH: I know. Now I’m thinking about, “Oh! We could do that.

 

[00:28:50] RH: I know. Because it’s almost like, these families just need a therapist to help them choose the right activities, the right items.

 

[00:28:57] JH: And then how to use them.

 

[00:28:59] KW: Yeah.

 

[00:29:00] RH: And how to use them, yeah.

 

[00:29:01] KW: Actually, you girls could do that.

 

[00:29:03] RH: Added to the list.

 

[00:29:06] KW: Like do you do that? Do you — I’m sure there’d be loads of people that would love. Like if you guys had some sort of wide system of sharing, you could talk to anyone around the world, like you did with me. Yeah, I could give you a quick look. This is what’s happening. You go, “Okay. I’d be steering to towards this, this, this.” It’s basically giving them a shopping list that makes sure — well, it reduces the chances of them wasting money, buy things that they don’t really need and more bang for your buck.

 

[00:29:37] RH: They’ll get their money’s worth.

 

[00:29:38] KW: [Inaudible 00:29:38]

 

[00:29:39] JH: It is, dealing like that. Do you sell locally only?

 

[00:29:45] KW: Yeah. At the moment, we are only Australia wide. We’ve got a couple of things that we do ship around the world. The dolls with Down Syndrome, we do, because we just kept getting asked. Because they’re so hard to get. But now, it’s much more freely available. We did set our website up so that people could purchase those. We will probably move towards that. One of my son’s, Billy, does all about IT and with just my whole new website hopefully up and running next week. We’ll probably move towards that. I’m just maybe not ready.

 

[00:30:30] JH: It’s a big step.

 

[00:30:31] KW: Yeah.

 

[00:30:31] RH: I was even looking on your website. It’s like, there’s a lot of things that I hadn’t seen before. I’m like, “I think I need this.”

 

[00:30:40] KW: Well, thank you. I’ll do something special for you.

 

[00:30:46] RH: I know, it’s like, Amazon is so great and so convenient, but there’s something so magical about buying from someone who you know and you know that they actually chose these items to have in their shop for a reason. Nothing compares.

 

[00:31:02] JH: So true.

 

[00:31:03] KW: I do think that. Everything has a place. I guess what we can offer is specialist knowledge. Truly one-to-one assistance. 

 

[00:31:17] JH: I love that. I’m just thinking if anyone in the states, because you don’t ship worldwide, so I’m like, “Man, we have all these people who just need that assistance, but they wouldn’t be able to purchase from you.” That would really work out.

 

[00:31:31] RH: Well, okay. Just down the road.

 

[00:31:33] KW: We’ll move towards that.

 

[00:31:37] JH: We’ll get there. We’ll get there.

 

[00:31:39] KW: We do get some people contacting us via email. We tend to — the difficulty is organizing payment frankly. Because business is tough and scammers are out there. Not that our business would be scammers, but we’re hit really bad last year by scammers. Something like $30,000.

 

[00:32:02] RH: Holy cow!

 

[00:32:03] KW: Yeah. I’m actually a little bit cautious now.

 

[00:32:07] JH: Wow! That’s scary.

 

[00:32:11] RH: Why are people so mean?

 

[00:32:12] KW: I know. Do you know what? They’re probably really super smart as [inaudible 00:32:16]. Why don’t they put it to good use?

 

[00:32:20] RH: Good use, yeah.

 

[00:32:21] KW: But anyway.

 

[00:32:22] JH: You’ve got a new website coming, do you have anything else new on the horizon that you’re working on?

 

[00:32:28] KW: Yeah, we do. We’re really moving towards creating more of our own resources. Where possible having a version that would be free to download. For instance, the 40 easy activities for classroom, they will be free to download. Some people can print map, laminate them, make up their own cards and use them straight away. Either in a classroom, or some therapist or even families. But we will also have a like a four-colored printed version that people could purchase if they want. We really want to go down that track of creating more resources and games and things like that. 

 

The other thing that I’d really — once we’re a little bit bigger and I can step a little bit further back, I want to be able to do more stuff that I love. I’m getting older. I want to be out to — I love sourcing great products. It’s so much fun. It’s like going on a treasure hunt. I’d like to spend more time doing that and making resources if I can’t find something. If you know there’s a need, and filling that need with a really great product. I’d like to spend more time doing that. Possibly most post-grad study. Just not sure — I need time.

 

[00:33:54] RH: It’s almost like you have this creative juice just flowing through your veins. If it’s not being released or stimulated, then you’ll almost get in like a funk.

 

[00:34:07] KW: It’s so true. Yeah.

 

[00:34:10] RH: Yeah. That was what I was thinking.

 

[00:34:12] KW: And you do know now, like women are working one to one like you guys do. You can often be back to back with kiddos. How do you keep your energy up because you give so much?

 

[00:34:26] JH: That’s a good question.

 

[00:34:28] RH: Yeah. It is hard. It is really — it is tricky. I wish there was an easy answer, but I don’t know. I would just say, being fun and making your sessions more fun for you and the kiddo. That’s what helps me if I’m tired, or dragging. I’ll get in the swing, and down and straight, and swing and lay and laugh. That gets the kiddo more engaged and that gets me more engaged. If I’m hungry or — something like that because we have biological needs to, so that’s kind of what I do. 

 

[00:35:05] JH: Yeah. I was going to say, any time you can do something that you know the child is going to enjoy, it’s going to be a more fun session. That helps too.

 

[00:35:15] KW: Yeah.

 

[00:35:16] JH: But the burnout is real.

 

[00:35:17] KW: Sometimes I — [inaudible 00:35:19] sometimes, because not every day is a diamond. 

 

[00:35:24] RH: Yeah, that is so true.

 

[00:35:26] KW: I tell myself, it doesn’t take time to flip that switch. It’s so easy to flip the switch when you remind yourself that it’s a privilege to work one-to-one.

 

[00:35:36] RH: That’s true.

 

[00:35:36] KW:We’re quite lucky to have that. Even the girls, because [inaudible 00:35:40] star for me, it can be pretty intense. We remind ourselves that we are so lucky to be able to help people. I drive to work — if I am in [inaudible 00:35:55], I flip the switch by saying, “One down. How many people we’re going to be able to help today?”

 

[00:36:02] RH: Yeah.

 

[00:36:01] KW: That’s all you need. That’s all I need to flip the switch. 

 

[00:36:07] RH: Yeah, definitely filled your cup.

 

[00:36:08] JH: I like that view of it’s a privilege to help these people. It’s a good view.

 

[00:36:14] RH: It is. All right. I’m curious if you have a piece of advice that you could share with our listeners. What gem would you share?

 

[00:36:25] KW: That’s a big question, isn’t it?

 

[00:36:27] RH: It is, yes.

 

[00:36:28] KW: I would say, my number one thing is connecting with the child or client, connecting with other professionals. Number one thing is connecting. Everything plus the way we work with families in tutoring, it is all relationship-based first. That would be my number one. Probably then would be strength-based. You’ll get more wins if you start from a base of strength. [Inaudible 00:37:00] There’s always more learning.

 

[00:37:04] JH: Oh, yes!

 

[00:37:04] RH: Oh, yes! Isn’t that the truth?

 

[00:37:07] JH: It’s so true.

 

[00:37:07] KW: Yeah.

 

[00:37:08] JH: [Inaudible 00:37:08] that one too.

 

[00:37:09] KW: What podcast, was it last week the one on the oral seeking?

 

[00:37:13] RH: Mm-hmm.

 

[00:37:14] KW: Funny. I was driving, stuck at the traffic lights and I was — I think you talked about putting air into alternate sides of your cheek. I didn’t know that one. [Inaudible 00:37:25]

 

[00:37:28] RH: Seriously, no trying it while you’re driving.

 

[00:37:30] KW: [Inaudible 00:37:30]

 

[00:37:32] JH: I love that. Well, it’s funny when we’re working on that episode. We have to stop and pause it and we were like just doing it ourselves and practicing. We’re like, “Man! We haven’t done that one in a long time.”

 

[00:37:43] KW: Even that strategy, that is [inaudible 00:37:47] because that is one of the beauty, [inaudible 00:37:50]. I’m always learning and I’m embarrassed how much I didn’t know when I was lecturing and could have passed on all of that information. But anyway, leave it alone.

 

[00:38:00] RH: Sometimes I feel that way. I’m like, “Dang, man! If I had known all of these things seven years ago, it could have been a whole different ball game for my clients back then.

 

[00:38:10] JH: Yeah, true. That is true.

 

[00:38:12] RH: But I think that’s the beauty of the profession.

 

[00:38:15] KW: [Inaudible 00:38:15], yeah. We do the best we can of what we know.

 

[00:38:20] JH: Exactly.

 

[00:38:21] KW: I think you still get wins as long as your heart and your intent is good, you still make progress, really.

 

[00:38:29] JH: Totally.

 

[00:38:30] RH: So good. It’s so true there.

 

[00:38:34] JH: For anyone listening who is in Australia and can benefit from all the things that you have, how can they find you?

 

[00:38:42] KW: Easy. We have a website. It’s starfishstore.com.au. We are very active on Facebook and Instagram. Even in the U.S. or anywhere around the world, yeah, follow us on social media and when we’ve got this free to download thing, I think that will be coming out probably in the next four weeks. Our new website will be — we do lots of sharing of stuff, so follow us on social media.

 

[00:39:10] RH: I was going to say, I think probably by the time this episode goes out, because this will go out in August, I bet all of that will be ready.

 

[00:39:17] KW: Oh! Terrific! Yes. Everyone will get to see the new website. They won’t even know —

 

[00:39:24] JH: Yes. Perfect.

 

[00:39:25] RH: Good. Okay. Now or maybe the moment you were waiting for. What questions do you have for us?

 

[00:39:34] KW: Yeah. My number one one was, how do you keep your energy up and we’ve sort of spoken about that one. I’d love to know what your plans are.

 

[00:39:47] RH: Oh man! I feel like our plans have kind of come to where they are now. I feel pretty lucky that we’ve been able to help as many people as we have. We’ve been able to partner with Harkla.

 

[00:40:01] JH: Partnering with Harkla was a big thing because we were able to just have more people on our team to help us do new and better things, so that’s pretty cool. But we are in the works of just making more courses for people, more digital courses because that’s a big piece of education.

 

[00:40:21] RH: Yeah. Then, it’s awesome having Harkla on the team as well because we have a lot of ideas for new products. Like you were saying, the [inaudible 00:40:29] tunnel. We have some new products that we are helping to design and helping to build. They’re going to be the weighted vest that I created. They’re going to be building those ones out and having those ones available to a wider audience. Maybe you’ll be able to get them in Australia too when they’re ready.

 

[00:40:50] KW: I did mention that and I’m busting — yeah, the last couple of emails from Samantha, she’s been dropping some hints of that new product. I’m busting.

 

[00:41:01] RH: Yes.

 

[00:41:02] JH: Yep. There’s a couple of things in the works right now.

 

[00:41:05] RH: Yeah. Things like that, it’s kind of just — it's a dream come true being able to create products, create courses, create goodies for people who need them most.

 

[00:41:19] KW: Yeah. It’s sharing, really. I love that with generosity of all your knowledge, and your experience, your expertise and just giving it away.

 

[00:41:30] RH: It needs to be out there.

 

[00:41:33] KW: [Inaudible 00:41:33]

 

[00:41:33] RH: What’s the point of keeping it to ourselves, you know.

 

[00:41:37] JH: Silly.

 

[00:41:40] KW: When you’ve got all your courses going, I didn’t jump on in time to your — you know how you’re doing the sensory challenge.

 

[00:41:49] RH: Yes. Do you want to join?

 

[00:41:50] KW: The tape — not this year, but I promise, myself and the team will definitely be signing up if you run it next year. I promise. I just wasn’t able to jump on, but I can’t wait to do that next time. It looks like it’s fun.

 

[00:42:11] JH: Perfect.

 

[00:42:12] RH: Yes. We’re going to hold you to it.

 

[00:42:12] KW: Yeah. I’m up for it.

 

[00:42:15] JH: Awesome.

 

[00:42:17] RH: Perfect. Kirstie, we could honestly probably chat with you all day.

 

[00:42:20] JH: We’re going to keep chatting with you just after the podcast.

 

[00:42:26] KW: You know what I’d love to do is have a chat about things like case studies. Obviously, no names, but you can learn so much from each other. I could chat all day about that.

 

[00:42:39] JH: We could totally schedule something for that.

 

[00:42:42] RH: I know. That would be so fun. Because it’s like the case study that you shared with us today. It was so motivating and inspiring for us to hear that story. We’ve had our own stories like that, but when you hear it from someone else, it’s like, “Oh! Oh my gosh! It’s amazing.

 

[00:42:55] KH: Yeah.

 

[00:42:55] RH: I love it.

 

[00:42:56] KW: It does get me excited.

 

[00:42:59] RH: Yeah, very much so.

 

[00:43:00] JH: We can — yeah, we’ll plan that. I’ll put it on my to-do list and we’ll get something scheduled soon, because that would be fun.

 

[00:43:05] KW: Yeah.

 

[00:43:06] RH: That’s cool.

 

[00:43:07] KW: All righty.

 

[00:43:09] RH: All right, Kirstie. Well, thank you so much. We appreciate you more than you know.

 

[00:43:15] KW: It’s been an absolute, yeah, wonderful time and so good to finally meet you in person.

 

[00:43:20] JH: Yes.

 

[END OF INTERVIEW]

 

[00:43:24] RH: She was fantastic. I’m so glad we got to meet her in virtual real life.

 

[00:43:28] JH: I can’t believe how much energy she has at 6:30 in the morning.

 

[00:43:30] RH: I know. I mean, if I was talking someone on the podcast too, I’d probably be excited. That’s super fun.

 

[00:43:36] JH: That’s true. That’s probably true. That’s super true.

 

[00:43:39] RH: Plus, we come with a lot of energy as well.

 

[00:43:41] JH: In the afternoon though. But really grateful that she came on and chatted with us. She’s been like a big part of Harkla for a while.

 

[00:43:50] RH: Yes. So happy we got to meet her. If you live in Australia, and you can visit her shop, and tell her that you heard about her Starfish Store through the podcast. Maybe we should like collab and do a discount or something. 

 

[00:44:05] JH: Probably.

 

[00:44:06] RH: Maybe get a code or something. That would be cool. Keep your eyes peeled on the show notes for that. If we can snag something like that, we’ll put it in the show notes because that will be super cool.

 

[00:44:15] JH: Super cool. Yeah, which is just great.

 

[00:44:17] RH: Make sure you follow them on Instagram. They do have an awesome Instagram account.

 

[00:44:21] JH: They do. They share a lot of things. A lot of videos and tips and stuff.

 

[00:44:25] RH: Yes.

 

[00:44:26] JH: Cool. Well, thank you guys for being in here and listening to our conversation with Kirstie.

 

[00:44:32] RH: All right. Make sure you screenshot and tag us both on Instagram and leave a review on iTunes if you have just 30 seconds. That would be fantastic.

 

[00:44:40] JH: If you have someone amazing that we should interview, you can send us a message. 

 

[00:44:44] RH: Okay. We will chat with you next week.

 

[00:44:46] JH: Okay. Bye.

 

[00:44:47] RH: Thank you so much for listening to All Things Sensory by Harka. If you want more information on anything we mentioned in the show, head over to harkla.co/podcast to get all of the show notes. 

 

[00:44:59] JH:We always have the show notes and links, plus full transcripts to make following along as easy as possible for everyone. If you have followed up questions, the best place to ask those is in the comments on the show notes or message us on our Instagram account, which is at @harkla_family. If you just search Harkla, you’ll find us.

 

[00:45:19] RH:Like we mentioned before, our podcast listeners get 10% off their first order at Harkla, whether it’s for one of our digital courses, one of our sensory swings, the discount code SENSORY will save you 10%. That code is S-E-N-S-O-R-Y. Head over to harkla.co/sensory to use that code right now so you don’t forget.

 

[00:45:41] JH:We’re so excited to work together to help create confident kids all over the world and work towards a happier healthier life.

 

[00:45:49] RH: All right. We’ll talk to you guys next week.

 

Just a friendly reminder, this is general information related to occupational therapy, pediatrics and sensory integration. We do not know you or your child, therefore, we do not know any specific needs. Therefore, you should always refer back to your pediatrician and occupational therapist for more information.

 

BORING, BUT NECESSARY LEGAL DISCLAIMERS

While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.


This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC
Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC

Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC and Jessica Hill, COTA/L both Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA). They have been working with children for over 6 years in outpatient settings. Rachel and Jessica specialize in creating easy-to-digest, actionable content that families can use to help their child's progress at home. Rachel and Jessica are the in-house experts, content creators, and podcast hosts at Harkla! To learn more about Rachel and Jessica, visit the Harkla About Us Page. Make sure to listen to their weekly podcast, All Things Sensory by Harkla for actionable, fun advice on child development.


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