Revolutionising Sensory Breaks: The Cubbie Solution with David McIntyre

Revolutionising Sensory Breaks: The Cubbie Solution with David McIntyre

Listen now:


Are you ready to transform the way we learn and make education truly inclusive for everyone?

In this ground-breaking episode of School Behaviour Secrets, we delve into the transformative world of sensory education with Cubbie, a visionary company dedicated to revolutionising the way we learn. Join us as we explore Cubbie's innovative solutions and their profound impact on inclusive education.

Important links:

Visit the Cubbie UK website here

Visit the Cubbie Ireland website here

Get our FREE Sensory checklist here

Join our Inner Circle membership programme:

Download other FREE behaviour resources for use in school:

Share this podcast with your friends:

Show notes / transcription

David McIntyre  0:00  

So how does it impact their education? Well, they're sitting in a classroom and they're overstimulated or they're dysregulated sensory wise, they're just not able to participate, they're not able to keep up with their peers and they fall behind. And as they fall behind, it becomes a stigma of learning support, or intervention, or bad report cards, and it only compounds the problem over time.

Simon Currigan  0:22  

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. While other podcasts are suave, slick, professional and prepared, we're more like it's midnight on a school night. We're still in the pub. We've had one too many. And do you know what? We really love you mate. I'm joined today by my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma.

Emma Shackleton  1:21  

Hi, Simon.

Simon Currigan  1:22  

Emma, I'm going to break from tradition a little bit today, I'd still like to ask you a question. But this one's a little bit different. 

Emma Shackleton  1:29  


Simon Currigan  1:30  

I'm going to play you a mystery sound. And I'd like you to tell me what you think it is.

Emma Shackleton  1:37  

Okay, sounds fun. Go for it.

Simon Currigan  1:45  

So, any thoughts?

Emma Shackleton  1:47  

I like this game? Easy. It sounds to me like it's either some kind of garden machinery but knowing that you've made the sound did you make the sound with your own fair hands? Or did you record it from somewhere?

Simon Currigan  2:02  

I got it off the internet. I have not personally made the sound.

Emma Shackleton  2:05  

Maybe one of those pencil sharpener jobbies that you wind the handle? And it sharpens pencils. Electric pencil sharpener?

Simon Currigan  2:13  

Oh interesting, I can see why you've gone with that. And I will tell you the answer, I promise. Only after today's interview.

Emma Shackleton  2:21  

Oh, you're gonna make me wait till then? 

Simon Currigan  2:23  

Yeah I know. 

Emma Shackleton  2:24  

All right. So if you won't tell me what the sound is, at least tell me how it's related to today's episode.

Simon Currigan  2:30  

So today, we're going to share my interview with David McIntyre on the subject of sensory overload and supporting kids with sensory differences. David's actually got a fascinating personal story to tell about his own child's autism and how, as a parent of an autistic child, he went on his own journey, learning about sensory needs. And not only that, but he's come up with a 21st century solution to supporting students with those needs, which is a really clever evolution of the sensory room, and we'll share what that solution is in the interview as well.

Emma Shackleton  3:05  

Oh, wow, that sounds exciting. So before we jump into that interview, if you haven't given us a review yet, what are you waiting for? If you're enjoying school behaviour secrets, please, could you open your podcast app now? Give us an honest rating and review. And what that does is it tells the algorithm gods to share the podcast with other teachers, school leaders, and parents who are also interested in improving SEMH, for our kids. And now here's Simon's interview with David McIntyre.

Simon Currigan  3:40  

Right. I'm super excited to welcome David McIntyre to the podcast today to talk about supporting children with sensory needs. But first off, David, can you tell us who you are, what you do, and what your expertise is? 

David McIntyre  3:52  

Hi, Simon. Thanks, again for this great opportunity to talk to your people. So David McIntyre, I'm the founder of Cubbie. In my past life, I was an apprentice toolmaker then a designer. And I've spent the last 25 years of my life designing products for companies all around the world. 

Simon Currigan  4:08  

I think it's gonna be a really interesting discussion today, because we're going to be talking about helping kids with sensory needs. And what you've done is someone from outside the teaching profession is you've spotted a problem. And you've identified a more powerful solution, I think, than what's already in schools. But we'll get onto that in a minute. Your journey supporting kids with sensory needs, and autism really started with your own daughter. So can you talk us through your story? 

David McIntyre  4:32  

Sure. A lot of things happened actually. But my my daughter was diagnosed seven years ago. Now she was two and a half. And it came as an awful blow to me tell you the truth. And my wife, of course, but my wife had actually seen the development issues coming up. I hadn't, and when I got the diagnosis, I'm afraid. I reacted quite negatively to it for occupational therapists that gave me the news had a very strong meeting with me. Let's just put it that way. I think I questioned their ability to diagnose at child to two and a half years of age, it was incredible.

Simon Currigan  5:03  

What do you think was behind that resistance?

David McIntyre  5:05  

I'm dyslexic myself and been neurodivergent is not easy in a world that's built for neurotypical people. And it just reminded me of my struggles, my own personal struggles. It's not for the faint hearted, and you have to be quite a strong character to come through the right way.

Simon Currigan  5:19  

It sounds like your first reaction was an emotional one? 

David McIntyre  5:21  

Very, very much so. And autistic people won't like this. But as a parent, I went through the mourning sequence, I was very worried all of a sudden about the future of my daughter, I didn't know how capable she would be to be independent living at that young age, would she in fact, be able to speak? it's one of the toughest things to teach you. And even if she could speak, which she continue to speak, because one of the things you learn is that they can move on the spectrum, the person can move. So today that could be verbal and tomorrow that could be nonverbal. That's a frightening thing to talk to a parent about. So yeah, very worrying, very worrying. However, it came to a head actually, while we were getting trained about autism, where I started to realise this is not the end of the world, this person's life is not over at two and a half years of age. And maybe there was something that we could actually do to help instead of worrying about and be proactive if you're like, instead of reacting to bad news, because everybody gets bad news all the time. And we we move forward. Don't we.

Simon Currigan  6:19  

Yeah. How did your daughter present at home? I mean, this is before going to school? What was she like in those early years? 

David McIntyre  6:25  

Well, I guess the biggest thing for me was her bedtime, actually. Ava would get very, very upset at bed time, even at a very, very young age. We were told at the time, you know, you read the books, and you ask for experts advice, and they say, you know, put your child in the cot and let them cry it out. Well, we've done that one night, one night only, like we never did it again, Ava physically hurt herself in the cot. We found out that she had hurt herself. She was bleeding. She had smashed her face against the cot wall. So whatever sensory stuff was happening for her, that sensation of falling asleep was very, very frightening for her. And she was doing everything possible to stay awake. And so for four years of her life, myself and my wife would actually sleep with her and swaddled her in her arms, not forcefully, but just to stop her actually hurting herself. It was hard going when I remember now, you forget these things with the parents. But it was very hard going for her and for us, of course, because we weren't getting any sleep. And we found melatonin, which helps greatly actually, melatonin jellies? 

Simon Currigan  7:25  


David McIntyre  7:26  

We started bringing them in from America. They're illegal here in Ireland. We can't buy them. You can buy them in Spain, but you can't buy them here. And now she takes one melatonin usually before she goes to bed. And she sleeps till maybe 6am. Up she gets and she's ready to go. I mean, it's incredible. 

It's like the batteries suddenly going.

it's incredible. It's 7am. Every morning, she's up, she will come into us, she'll make sure her mother is aware that she's awake. And she'll go downstairs then. And she's at an age now where she can make her own breakfast. And she sits down and watches our cartoons until everybody else wakes up. Which is great, you know, but it's just interesting how things have progressed.

Simon Currigan  8:02  

You must have had concerns for her then moving into like school age and how she would do at school?

David McIntyre  8:09  

Yeah, well, it's called early birds training. That's what we got here in Ireland. And we met a lot of different parents of different age people. So you know, some people had children, they're 15 years of age, and we're in secondary school, mostly primary school. That's when we started hearing the stories about what's happening in the education sector. And listen, I wasn't, I should say this, I was not a big fan of the education sector. Being dyslexic myself, I didn't go through the education the right way. That's a story I'll dive into maybe as I expand this, but for the likes of Ava, for instance, her parents, or autistic people that were around her were being excluded from the class for behavioural issues that was caused by sensory stress. 

Simon Currigan  8:50  


It could be even sensory stresses from the day before cooking up causing issues the day after. It's remarkably complex. So what we were hearing is that the school's response was expulsion. It was short days, it was not enrolling children with autism in the first place. This is an Ireland. 

This is not very long ago?

David McIntyre  9:10  

No, this is seven years ago. And it continues to this day. By the way, it's not as bad as it was, but it's still there. And one of the things was they're spending long periods of time outside the classroom. So even though they were included in the school, they were actually spending a lot of time out of the mainstream class, which they were walking halls, or they were in a sensory room for hours. Now my initial reaction was, while the school should be doing more, but luckily, when I started going to the schools and talking to them, I realised that this is a problem beyond their capability. And we actually built a prototype which failed because of that, because I took it from the person that needed to have this point of view first and not the school's point of view, the product failed, and I lost a fortune. But when we looked at it again, and we brought it in the school's point of view, and all of a sudden worked very well.

Simon Currigan  9:58  

And this was a product around sensory rooms supporting kids with sensory needs. 

David McIntyre  10:02  


Simon Currigan  10:02  

If you could just unpack what that product was?

David McIntyre  10:04  

Yeah, the schools are underfunded, but they're always underfunded, by the way. But in 2008, the law changed around the world, making it the basic human right for every individual to be educated within their own community. And that's despite disability, it's a very simple thing. And what it means is that people with disabilities are allowed to go into mainstream education. In fact, it's their human right to be educated there. The governments around the world signed the Declaration, and back in 2008, as I said, but didn't enforce it. So it was now on the schools incumbent on schools to react. And they're already understaffed. They're already under financed. And all of a sudden, they have this cohort coming in. And it's very, very difficult.

And the undertrained often they don't have the knowledge, they need to begin to support kids 

Training is great, but training is as good as the person providing the training, right? 

Simon Currigan  10:56  


David McIntyre  10:57  

And thats sold to the school, there's no governmental bodies saying this is the training you must get. And therefore we can set a process of training, and then adjust the training as it changes, and therefore reinforce the new training. It seems to be ad hoc, it's very segmented, and some of it is inappropriate. So training is great, if it's the right training, but what does that look like? I couldn't tell you by the way, we do our own training that we've developed ourselves. And then what you have as well as you have teachers are burning out like on a level that was never seen before. It's incredible. You have teacher assistants that are coming in to fill up the space that is left from the teacher who are very qualified or not qualified at all, it's a big problem for schools and their firefighting, schools are firefighting. And this is just one of the problems that they're facing.

Simon Currigan  11:40  

In England, I've become aware of, you know, I'm gonna be honest and put my hand up. So I'm not quite sure what their role is. But there's a role now of an unqualified teacher teaching a class. And for me, that's deeply concerning, because you've got at least 30 children's education and potential for someone who presumably hasn't had the training that you would expect from a professional in the room around teaching at all, let alone getting in the weeds with special needs and knowing about different conditions and how to support children and level the playing field.

David McIntyre  12:13  

No, no, it's true, though. It's a very worrying trend. From a parent's point of view. I want my children to be educated by a teacher. They're trained to be educated, but they're trained to educate. It's not perfect, but it's they're qualified, they've gone through a training course and to have a profession,

Simon Currigan  12:29  

You wouldn't want to be on a plane flown by an unqualified pilot.

David McIntyre  12:32  

It makes no sense. It's incredible. I don't understand it. But there's a huge shortage, I think of teachers in the UK right now. And I think there's a huge shortage of leaving, of teacher assistants and learning support, I think they're very hard to recruit. There is a big problem here. And what we're trying to do with we don't just try to help the school, we're really trying to help students. Secretly, we're helping the school as well. But really, and truly, it's all about the students and how do we get them back in the classroom.

Simon Currigan  12:55  

I was a teacher in a classroom once and I would see all sorts of children with all sorts of needs, but I would only see their experience in the classroom or in the school. As a parent, what was the impact of having unmet sensory needs? On your daughter when she got home away from the teachers? What was your perspective on that? What did you see? What did your daughter say? What was the impact of being in school all day on a human level on her?

David McIntyre  13:24  

It's a great question. Now I've got three neuro divergent children. I'm neuro divergent myself, and I've got one neurotypical child, I don't know how that happened. We won't hold that against her. So how does it impact their education? Well, they're sitting in a classroom, and they're overstimulated or they're dysregulated sensory wise, they're just not able to participate. They're not able to listen to the teacher, they're not able to keep up with their peers and they fall behind. And as they fall behind, it becomes a stigma of learning support, or intervention or bad report cards,  and it only compounds the problem over time. This is my experience of school as well, my youngest daughter, she's not a seeker or an avoider, she's actually a sensory type, which is one of the types of sensory needs. So noise, touch and light affect her greatly and impacts her ability to learn in the class. For instance, she's 10 now, and she's only started to really learn how to read that's an impact on her ability to take in information. We know that at a young age four to six, for instance, people are... it's very, very hard to sensory regulate in the classroom. So you have to see that as a gap in their learning for the first two years of their education. And only after that, can they actually start to catch up so they're two years behind their peers. So I guess the impact really is mental health impact, where the person feels they're falling behind, even though they're they're very intelligent, is probably a fundamental problem in education in itself, how we measure success and failure. My daughter comes home every day dysregulated so she kind of masks that she tries to hide it every day and She comes home and we have a swing, an industrial level swing in the backyard. And that's because she is on it and she gives it hell for leather for about a half an hour. The minute she gets home, the bag goes down to the ground, she's out on that swing, and she's swinging to try to regulate and get her mind thinking again. So that's interesting. My oldest daughter is different. She is a facial expressions and body languages is what she cannot read at all, I must say I was struggling with a little bit myself. For her, She no longer masks, she she's now 13, where she went through that dash as well, where she, she's a bystander, she stood out from the crowd, she didn't know what the game was. But after a time, she became comfortable with that. Maybe one of the factors is that myself and my wife fully understand the issues that they're facing, and are able to communicate with them in an efficient manner, if you like that helps them and I think that's how my oldest daughter because she's highly intelligent. However, she's not very socially intelligent, if you know what I mean. So trying to explain to her exactly what's happening in the schoolyard. She's very happy. She's actually succeeding in school now in regard to her testing and her ability to keep up with her peers. She's now transitioning into secondary school, and I was rang up by the school that she's going into, the person said on the line, she says, David, your daughter has an autism diagnosis. I said, Yes, she does. So she will be going into the ASD unit, the call is over here, an ASD unit, which is it's a building usually apart from the main school. 

Simon Currigan  16:34  


David McIntyre  16:34  

So again, they're included, however they're apart from. But in fairness, they do deliver a lot of specialised, it's a six to one ratio as well. But the teacher, which is really good for a lot of kids, don't get me wrong. I just don't like the word ASD unit, I think was completely wrong. But she presumed that my child would be in the ASD unit. Now the ASD unit has different break times different schedules. So she would be excluded from her friends automatically 

Simon Currigan  17:00  

As a teenage girl that's going to be important to her

David McIntyre  17:03  

Hugely impactful. And it was the approach from the school. I think that was wrong. They presumed because my daughter had a diagnosis that she belonged in this unit. Where in fact, if they rang me and said, we see that your daughter has a diagnosis of autism, would you be able to come in and we can walk through her needs? 

Simon Currigan  17:21  


David McIntyre  17:21  

And that would have been a better way of communicating with. Listen, we understand. There could be issues. And we're here to help and get the transition done correctly instead of presuming, no, we're going to segregate your child on this ASD unit because she has a diagnosis.

Simon Currigan  17:36  

A personalised response to her needs versus the automaticity, you have this label, therefore you are going in the Unit.

David McIntyre  17:44  

Advocacy has played its part in making people aware of autism. And that's great. However, advocacy has also played a part and be people seeing the extreme side of autism or the higher need level, instead of a person that would present like me as autistic and is quite able to defend themselves or to compete in the real world. The presumption is that if you have an autism diagnosis that is on the higher level of need, that's not correct. Most people with autism are the people that are creating the new science that we have. They're the people that are creating the new inventions and other people that are creating the vaccines for COVID. For instance, these are the people that are free thinking they're to think outside, and they put things together that were never put together before. I think schools should be embracing the cohorts. So I left school at 15, I had to get out of it from my own mental health and when I look back at it now, I was very lucky that I could get an apprenticeship. There's so much pressure on people all the time now. It's relentless. It's  relentless pressure, to be the best or to be outperforming and get the great job. And I don't know, I think our communities are breaking down. And I think it's been happening for a long, long time, I can only walk you through my own journey there in school was very, very confusing, continuously falling behind my classmates and frustrated because I didn't think I was stupid. But it was very much implied. I was confused about that. Because you don't know where you sit in within your peer group. And I guess I started withdrawing away from my peer group then. And this is not a sob story. By the way. I got out of 15 I got a trade, I grasped that. Computers helped me greatly. Without computers, I wouldn't have been a designer, I was way ahead of my peers. All of a sudden, I was actually a top, a top guy if you put me in front of a computer. And so I was able to negotiate that. I would walk into a meeting and I would know the answer to the problem in 10 minutes. And I will usually tell us I'd say listen, this is what we need to do. And of course, everybody else is looking at you going How the hell did you come up with that answer? And it again is the neuro divergent mind. We're able to just put the pieces together and come up with the solution.

Simon Currigan  19:53  

An hour into the meeting you go "Why the hell are we still talking about this? I've given you the answer."

David McIntyre  19:58  

Yeah, exactly. What's worse is there's some other engineers sitting there, which regurgitate what I'd said, an hour ago, all of a sudden, everybody would go, Oh, yeah, that's the answer. And and the meeting would end. Like, that's awful frustration, it builds into resentment. 

Simon Currigan  20:12  


David McIntyre  20:13  

And all of a sudden, you stop giving your ideas, don't you? And that's what happens in school, you're, you're separated from your peers, there's a stigma attached to it, rightly or wrongly, young people react differently to circumstances. And there's a lot of pressure on young people to be part of the gang or be part of the trend that's popular. And that won't change. By the way, I'm sure lots of them look back when they're 40. And kind of go, Oh, my God. So what we need to do, I think, is creating an education system that supports everybody's level, it's going to be difficult, because what you're going to have to do is rethink how we measure because we have to measure to hold society is built around measurement. However, how do we build on strengths instead of trying to enforce weaknesses. Strengths and weaknesses. I was never very much good at writing essays. But I was forced to do it all the time, I was better off in the engineering shop, learning how to measure than I was how to write an essay, for instance,

Simon Currigan  21:02  

You use the word earlier, survive. And for more and more kids, the aim of the education system is to survive it, rather than to thrive in it. And as a teacher, I've heard that so much in the last sort of 12/18 months, you know, as someone who came into education to support and help kids achieve their best, it's just heartbreaking when you hear that word over and over and over and shameful to some extent on the education system. We touched on that you were asked to design a sensory room for schools. 

David McIntyre  21:31  


Simon Currigan  21:32  

For listeners who are new to sensory rooms, or sensory environments, can you just quickly explain what they are and what their purpose is, before we move on to your evolution to the next step in terms of sensory support?

David McIntyre  21:45  

Sure. And by the way, I'm Irish, it's very hard to stop me talking and when I get going. The problem was children with regulation issues, I was actually asked, it's incredible how things come together sometimes. I was made redundant from my job. And my daughter was diagnosed about a year previous. So we understood that there was an issue there sensory wise, and we had a basic understanding. And then I was asked to design a sensory room for a local school, which was really the step forward in my thinking, because sensory rooms, they're usually lights, they are mirrors, theyre fibre optics. And I guess people look at them as a visual stimulus, a calming stimulus, if you like, or tactile.

Simon Currigan  22:28  

They're usually quite small spaces aren't they?

David McIntyre  22:30  

They can be, they can be, a fully equipped sensory room is very expensive. And needs an occupational therapist to be run correctly. And that's what we found, the first question I had, because I knew from my own daughters, that there was different sensory needs and sensory types. And I couldn't understand how a sensory room actually met that need. You know, for instance, if you're under stimulated, I could see how maybe a sensory room could help calm you down. If you're under stimulated, how could actually help bring you up if it had all the flashing lights and stuff? But if you're overstimulated, how did that same stimulus calm you down? So very interesting. It's very simple question. But how does it adapt to everybody? And of course, it doesn't. That's the real issue with sensory rooms, there's no real issue otherwise. Some people love sensory rooms, and I get it,  they're very nice areas.

Simon Currigan  23:16  

But kids with different needs, need different sensory input. So it makes sense that they're not giving them all of the same thing is not going to have the same outcome, it's going to work for some and not for others. 

David McIntyre  23:26  

It doesn't work for the mass populace, that's the problem. And if it's set up for the individual at the time of their, what they're needing, if theyre, they're perfect. But nobody knows how to do that except an occupational therapist. So the real innovation that we did was we standardise the sensory room, because sensory rooms are always different, and what the second step is, we digitally linked the occupational therapist to that sensory room. And what happens now is, when we go into a school, the school identifies to us whether they have a diagnosis or not, it doesn't matter for us to fill in a very simple questionnaire that we've developed. And once that profile is up, it goes to our occupational therapist, and they create a tailor made experience for that person. They also put in the schedule of the break when it should happen. And we really take care of the whole sensory needs of that person. And we actually measure as well, the before and after. So if the programme isn't working, our OT's will come back and recreate that experience to match it better. How it works for schools in primary schools, is the person is has scheduled since we break there could be more than one but usually, it's one. They go to the Cubbie, the Cubbie remembers who they are, and adapts the environment to their sensory need.

Simon Currigan  24:36  

I've seen these on video, can you paint a picture of what a Cubbie looks like? Because there might be some people imagining when you say the sensory room changes, running into a physical space and taking some lights out and putting some music on, you know, actually physically changing the room, like a theatre where things come on and things go off very gracefully. 

David McIntyre  24:55  

Oh, yeah, we made that mistake. That's a great story as well actually how we figure that one out. So As I said, I lost all my money at the beginning because we had a great idea but we didn't execute it very well. But anyway, so it's a freestanding structure. It's about two metres square and space. So it's quite big and it's wheelchair accessible. And in there is lights sound and a visual and there's different seating options and there's two different swing seats and there's a kind of reception chair and what happens is dash- we categorised in all the visuals and the music. So for instance, we have three different levels we have calm, medium and alert or energise. So if the person is under stimulated, we can give them an energising programme. If they're overstimulated, we can give them a calming programme. Now we invented the medium setting, because our calming programmes were too good, they were putting students to sleep. So we have a medium setting now so that we can actually measure the impact if you like of the sensory break. So when you walk into a Cubbie, it could have nothing in it could be just a blank space. If you're overstimulated and you're looking to shut everything down. Or if you're looking for stimulus, we can have the visuals and music going that are categorised and targeted for you to help you energise or calm.

Simon Currigan  26:08  

So it's almost like the holodeck from Star Trek, it changes depending on the individual child needs, when one child walks in, they have a different experience, they might see things projected on the wall, and there might be certain things available for them. And when the next child walks in, it could look very different.

David McIntyre  26:24  

It is very different. Yeah. So we have different videos, for instance, and different music types. And again, they're all categories, but we're looking at special interests. So if someone likes chocolates, for instance, we have a whole experiences around towards someone likes bubbles, again, if they're like waterfalls, we have lots of different waterfalls. If they're like science and math, we usually put on space. So we try to get locked into someone's special interest. And then categorise it in a way that helps them regulate their sensory need. And what we're trying to do is get someone in the middle.

Simon Currigan  26:53  

And this is related to an OT report. So an OT looks at their needs from the questionnaire and kind of designs what needs to be put in a Cubbie. So the schools don't need to do that. It's kind of set up for them?

David McIntyre  27:03  

What we call a turnkey solution. Now what happens is, when the Cubbie is put in, we take over the sensory needs of that person. That's what we do, we develop the programmes for each person, we measured the effect of the programmes, and then we create new experiences for that person if the programme isn't working. Now, I can tell you that the exciting thing is that we do know that with 40,000, sensory breaks delivered in Ireland so far this year, which is a lot of sensory breaks, we know that the occupational therapist programmes are 90% accurate.

Simon Currigan  27:33  

That's impressive

David McIntyre  27:35  

It is really, really impressive. That means that we're able to reduce sensory stresses in the classroom by 75%. And this is a huge difference for everybody. For the students, for their parents, and for the teacher,

Simon Currigan  27:48  

What kind of impact do you see on the kids from that kind of success? We've talked about the difficulties sensory needs can have in school and the impact on the kids. But when those sensory needs are met in a proactive way, how does that change things for the kids? 

David McIntyre  28:02  

They can get an education. It's so fundamental to a healthy life. It's incredible the impact education makes. So this company is really about participation. And what that means is we're looking for that child to go back into the classroom and participate in that activity. And that's what we measure. And we know we're very successful there. So that's the impact, that person is able to go into the class and do their work. As my daughter will tell you unscrambles the brain so that they can go back and they can actually participate. So that's what it's all about. But however, it's got bigger than that, since we started that programme participation now means being able to go into the stand in Aviva Stadium for the rugby match, for instance. They've got a Cubbie right beside the stand, they didn't put it up in a room somewhere. It's literally right behind where the, where the people are shouting and roaring. And the idea is that if you need a sensory break, they're available to you. So now instead of being included in a room somewhere, they're actually participating in the crowd. Now, listen, it's not for everybody, but I can guarantee it, there's a lot more in the crowd than there used to be. So that's what we're about. That's the impact. However, we've had such great stories from parents, it's humbling. We know that Cubbie resonates at home after school. And it's important, and it's becoming more important. And I can tell you why a lot of children mask during the day. And then they let their feedings out and be known to their parents when they get home. We know that if we can give them a sensory break just before they go home. that that doesn't happen, it falls greatly. But again, we're also learning that children using Cubbie are going home, and they're now doing their homework, or they're playing with their siblings. And I can I can point you to a lot of parents that would would be able to identify if their child hadn't had their break that they didn't know straight away. And usually the pick up the phone and wonder why. So it's a halo effect. It seems to last for some people for the whole day. It's an incredible story, or incredible impact that we're making on people's lives and the teachers lives. The impact isn't stress in the classroom, we now have teachers using Cubbies all the time. Incredibly some teachers are coming in before school starts to have 10 minutes inside Cubbie. We put one into a school  and the principal uses it every day before she goes home. And now  she says that she's just decompressed before she even gets the car. And I think that's an incredible thing as well. So we're very proud of that. And Cubbie is becoming more for everybody than just neurodivergent children. It's now becoming for young adults, adults, and neurotypical people, as we call them, people with anxiety, anxiety is a huge problem. So we now see students of all types using Cubbie every day. And we had intended that, by the way, at the beginning, but we weren't sure what had happened. And when we pushed it into a third level College here in Ireland, we started seeing more neurotypical people using it at exam times, for instance, to help them de stress which it's great impact. So I think it impacts the whole school, not just neurodiverse.

Simon Currigan  30:56  

And I like the way here, you're talking about using this proactively instead of reactively throughout the day to meet needs neurodivergent neurotypical, you've got someone building these and they're using it to manage it proactively rather than being in a state where they're overwhelmed at what do I do now? And that's when it becomes really powerful, isn't it?

David McIntyre  31:16  

It is. So our occupational therepists, part of our questionnaire's to try to ascertain when the sensory stresses really happen. We tried to give that person a break before that, but also we categorise the impact we're looking for the more severe impact on their ability to participate. And they are the children to get prioritised. You know, a lot of companies would look for the lower hanging fruit, we're actually looking at the at the top. And we're trying to be the, as someone described as they were like the Formula One of sensory processing. If you like, Cubbie breaks as well, it's important to note that they're very short, a typical sensory break in a copy would be 10 minutes. And we know that after 10 minutes to be able to go back to the classroom, one of the things we did at the beginning was limit the amount of time someone can spend inside the Cubbie. Now Cubbie, by the way, has no locks. And we have inherited some trauma from years back where people were being isolated in small spaces, we are fully aware of that. And we understand that all we want to do is have the person and we train our schools about consent. So Cubbie is never used as a reward, or it's never used as a punishment. So that's often important as well that people understand that this is all about consent. And we train about consent. And we help our schools understand what that means. 

I feel like we're just getting started, David, but we're almost running out of time. If you're a teacher, or a school leader or a parent listening to this podcast, what's the first step you can take today to start helping your pupils or your kids with their sensory needs?

Well you can buy a Cubby, of course, It will certainly help you, 

Simon Currigan  31:40  

How can we find out more about Cubbie?

David McIntyre  31:43  

You can go onto our website is for the UK and .ie for the Irish, lots of videos there, or you can contact us at or  There's lots of ways to getting through. I guess, you know, the best thing to do is to maybe declutter, declutter the spaces in the classroom, sometimes they're very, very busy. And lots of colours and lots of bright lights and stuff. Yeah, little steps like that. I know that if you could check the brightness of lights down a notch or two, it could be very powerful, simple things like that could very much help. And also a lot of adults using fidgets, I wouldn't just give them to the neurodivergent in the classroom, or give them to all the kids and encourage them to fidget with them. Because we all stim it's called stimming. So we all stim. 

Simon Currigan  33:39  


David McIntyre  33:40  

How about making it for the group instead of just for the individual?

Simon Currigan  33:42  

We asked this of all our guests, who is the key figure that's influenced you or the book that you've read? That's had the biggest impact on your approach to supporting children?

David McIntyre  33:53  

I got an inkling of this question coming, Simon and I'm going to answer it the only way I can I really didn't read being dyslexic, I had to learn how to read and write again, when I got an office job, and it's still a work in progress. Some 25 years later, believe me. However, I read a book about General Patton, and I know this might be a bit funny, but in it, there's a chapter about dyslexia. He was dyslexic. And it was the first time anybody had explained to me what dyslexia was and how it affected this person. And it was a revelation I read all the time now, which I believe because of that one book I read all about Roman Empire. The British Empire is one of my favourites right now. The World Wars, I read a lot about those that time that that author gave to the issue of dyslexia, it changed my life. It's incredible how a few words or few lines in a book just opened my eyes to the struggles that I wasn't the only one having these struggles. So I guess that's had a huge impact on me. But the biggest impact was probably, my girls being born. I say that there's two different kinds of people out there. There's people with kids and people without kids and We know who we are.

Simon Currigan  35:02  

I think that's a really powerful way to end the interview. David, thank you for being on the show today. 

David McIntyre  35:08  

Thanks very much, Simon.

Emma Shackleton  35:09  

So what I really like about that is David's child had a problem becoming overwhelmed in their sensory needs. And he didn't just leave it there, David became informed about that issue and found his own solution. 

Simon Currigan  35:24  

Yeah, he really applied an engineering mentality and approach and came up with a solution that's now supporting more and more children in school. Very interesting, and a very imaginative guy. I really enjoyed that interview, and I'll put direct links to David's website and information about the Cubbie in the episode description.

Emma Shackleton  35:41  

And if you're working with a child who might have sensory needs, then we've got a free download that can help. It's called the sensory checklist. And it helps you to work out what sensory sensitivities might be affecting one of your pupils.

Simon Currigan  35:58  

This is really important because if a student's brain is working overtime to manage sensory input in the classroom, that fuels dysregulation. So you really need to know what sensory input your pupil is seeking to avoid, what sensory input they're actually seeking. And then you can put in place classroom adaptations for that.

Emma Shackleton  36:19  

That's right. So are they drawn to loud noises for example? Or do they actively try to avoid loud noises? Or do they get startled by classroom noises? Do they avoid touch and pressure? Or are they seeking that out through rough play or hugging other children too hard?

Simon Currigan  36:39  

Knowing a child's sensory input is so important to helping them manage in school focus their efforts on their work and keeping them regulated. 

Emma Shackleton  36:47  

To get our free guide which also includes some sensory strategies you might not have come across before, head to click on the free resources tab, and you'll see a link at the top of the page. And we'll also put a link in the episode description.

Simon Currigan  37:05  

And if you found today's show interesting or valuable, make sure you open up your podcast app now and subscribe so you never miss another episode. Subscribing will make you feel super lush, like a pigeon dressed in an elegant velvet smoking jacket at a Victorian gentleman's club. barman. Fetch me my brandy.

Emma Shackleton  37:24  

Coo coo hang on a minute, Simon. Haven't you forgotten something?

Simon Currigan  37:28  

What do you mean?

Emma Shackleton  37:29  

The mystery sound? I need to know what it is. 

David McIntyre  37:32  

All right. All right. I'll play it one more time. Okay, and then I'll give you the answer

Simon Currigan  37:43  

So before you were saying it was a pencil sharpener, what are your feelings? 

Emma Shackleton  37:47  

And now I still think it's a pencil sharpener or some sort of rotary gardeny thing? I don't know. Go on, put me out of my misery.

Simon Currigan  37:55  

Okay, so the answer was there is a rotary element to this. It was a sewing machine. Did you get that at home if you are listening, you know, at home or in the car or at the gym wherever you listen to this podcast?

Emma Shackleton  38:04  

Okay. Okay, now we've got some proper closure on this issue. I'd like to thank our listeners for tuning in today to wish you all a brilliant week and to say that we both look forward to seeing you next week on school behaviour secrets. Bye for now

Simon Currigan  38:20  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)