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Samboards. A Western Story Written by Mark Derbyshire

Updated: May 3, 2023

Nice to be writing once more and letting you know what we've been up to in recent times.

I have been working with Andrew Western, the CEO of Samboards and he has been introducing me to the wide range of products that are proving to be an effective way of helping to calm people living with dementia when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

The sensory boards that Samboards have created are uniquely designed to be used for either distraction or enjoyment. Touching and feeling the board exercises your hands, increases messages to your brain, and releases natural chemicals which can help a person feel motivated, and improve the sense of well-being.

Benefits reported by other users include; increased concentration and focus, reduced anxiety, improved circulation and fine motor skills and a greater sense of calm and well-being.

The sensory board has seven different textures on it. Move your fingers around the textures around the board and think of how they feel. Touching and moving around in these textures can give the brain something new to think about and produce "feel good" hormones.

There are no timeframes or limits on how much the board can be used. They work effectively as part of a daily routine to stimulate fine motor skills for example or they can be used whenever you need them to feel more calm and focused.

The six textures on the front and one on the back are designed with a different feel to each of them. Each texture is experienced through touch, using the hands and fingers but it can also work if a tool is used in the mouth or by using other areas of your skin.

Some of the textures are designed to recreate images of nature which are known to be soothing. When the texture is felt, different feedback or feelings are created, the blood flow to the outside of the brain increases and hormones are released. The sensory needs can be met by one or more of these textures.

By touching the board and finding new textures to explore, the body releases dopamine, which is a feel-good stimulating hormone. The act of touch also produces messages through the nervous system which can then move blood in the brain away from the amygdala reducing anxiety and stress.

The swirl pattern (represented in blue) helps with breathing exercises.

While using the sensory pad, the user may feel calmer and more in control of their emotions. A calm mind can make learning easier and make better choices. They can feel more engaged and interested in the world around them.

The board also helps to develop hand control and small motor skills. By using your hands and fingers to touch textures that you may like, you can improve your mood and your small motor skills. This can lead to better hand control for other tasks like feeding yourself or doing up buttons.

The tactile experience can also help in memory building, memory storing and memory retrieval. By experiencing something different and new to you, you are building new pathways in your brain. The more pathways that you have in your brain, the more accessible routes your thoughts can take, which makes brain ageing and memory loss less noticeable. If your tactile sensors have been under-stimulated, and that part of your brain has reduced its function, it is possible to rebuild your sensitivity and the area of the brain it lives in.

The boards are made to a safe standard and are dishwasher safe. Cleaning does not require any specialist products: simply pop it in the dishwasher or clean it by hand using hot soapy water or anti-bacterial cleaning sprays. It is recommended that you wash your board after each time that you use it.

Use of the board in a dementia setting

Andrew has been working with The Hollies Care Centre in Dursley. The Hollies Care Centre is a friendly and supportive care home community providing specialised and tailored nursing care, dementia care, respite care, end-of-life care and residential apartments. It provides round-the-clock care offered by a team of dedicated and well-trained staff. It is well-established and accredited with the Gold Standards Framework Award. Dementia Care follows the internationally recognised "Household model" of person-centred care. It provides a full range of services to meet the changing needs of its residents. It is set in a beautiful park overlooking the picturesque village of Dursley.

Recently, Andrew visited The Hollies site with local MP, Right Honourable Siobhan Baillie, where they have been using his boards as a tool for helping their clients relax and focus.

The Rt Hon Member of Stroud was so impressed with the way that the home was run and the effects that Andrew's products had in helping people living with dementia to calm and focus, that she wrote this letter of approval.


Here is some of the feedback that Samboards' products have received thus far.

Salisbury NHS - Working in a hospital under the current circumstances is particularly challenging and stressful. With the job of the site manager, ensuring patients flow and admission are needed safely around the trust, a lot of stress is accumulated. My colleague presented us with a stress relieving device which helps take the mind off a million different thoughts and helps with sewing a line of thinking back together. I personally have mild ADHD and it helped me to focus on goals and targets one step at a time without drifting into a million different tasks. A very positive tool and comes in a portable form which is very helpful as well as being safe and easily wipeable.

Used the prickly tile during a presentation that I had to give. I found it a distraction from the nerves of presenting. It took my mind away from the fear of stuttering. It worked and I felt incredibly relaxed whilst carrying out the presentation.

Gave one to my youngest child during homeschooling to try and keep him focused. I found the days when he had the tile to fiddle with, his concentration improved and he was less inclined to get out of his chair.

Used it at work to reduce my stress levels when confronted with situations that would normally create some levels of anxiety. I found having it on my lanyard meant that it was easy to access and provided a level of distraction.

A relative of an elderly patient living with COPD - With my Nan having COPD and many other health issues we had to implement breathing exercises. The SAMBOARDS have really helped my Nan with her breathing by following the various patterns. One evening, my Nan's oxygen levels dropped to a very low reading on her machine. We did the exercise with the Sam board and her reading went up on her machine. My point is that the boards have really helped, not only does it help her with her exercises, but it also distracts her panic when she is struggling. It is by her side 24/7 and she uses it every single day.

Headway - Samboards reached out to Headway in order to use their products to support social and cognitive rehabilitation. Results found that it supported users' neurological condition and helped to keep them focused.

Impressions were documented as:

"Yes, 100%. I enjoyed using the Sam boards very much."

"I enjoyed exploring different shapes"

"Feeling the many bumps and ridges, I enjoyed that because of my condition."

"Sliding hand on the swirl and the wave shapes was very enjoyable."

"Refocuses the mind, I rate the board 9/10 and the instant reward was 8/10."

The board and other sensory products can also be used as an aid in stroke recovery and many other neurological conditions. It has been used to help those with anxiety issues to aid with sleeping problems.

It has also helped adults with learning disabilities when feeling agitated and has been noticed to improve mood and reduce levels of incidents.

Personal Testimony

My 11-year-old daughter suffers from anxiety issues. Just before Christmas, we were travelling on the motorway when my exhaust snapped and I had to pull onto the hard shoulder. We vacated the car and made our way behind the barrier. The area behind the barrier was a nettle and prickly shrubs overgrowth that took quite a bit of negotiating. Between this and the noise made by the oncoming traffic rushing past and the fact that we were looking at a six-hour wait before any recovery vehicle turned up, my daughter became quite anxious. Now I always keep one of the Sam boards on the back seat of the car for presentation purposes when talking about this product. My daughter asked me if we could go back to the car so that she could get something. We made our way back to the car and she retrieved the Sam board from the back seat. We went back behind the barrier and she started to trace the patterns on the board with her finger. I was amazed at what a calming influence this had on her and she remained calm and focused until her Uncle Paul turned up on his white BMW (and if you ever want to see my daughter chuckle it was getting into a BMW after driving in a Honda Jazz with her Uncle) to get her back home whilst I waited for the recovery vehicle.

Well, I hope this gives everyone a good flavour of the great work that these boards can do. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Until next time

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