Today’s blog post was submitted by Lara Mather.  Lara is an OT working in Hillcrest, KZN and is excited to start her ASI® journey on SASIC 1 and 2 this year.  Thank you Lara!

“Home is not a place, it’s a feeling”- Cecilia Ahern

Growing up, Ouma buttermilk rusks were the solvent of all of life’s problems. Not feeling well- have a plain rusk. Got your heart broken- nothing a rusk dunked in tea can’t fix. Sunday blues- here come the rusks! Our Ouma rusks tasted like home.

Picture: blikbeker and rusks - MMMM

A recent post on social media by Kath Smith from ASI Wise spoke to the sensory experience of eating a rusk, which got me thinking- is it the rusk, or is the sensory input provided by the crunching and the chewing of the rusk that brings about calmness and serenity that all of life’s problems have now been solved (1)?  Is the feeling of “home” in fact an experience that brings about self-regulation? Some literal food for thought!

Upon reading Kath’s post, I realized that as South Africans, we have many unique sensory experiences that the rest of the world may only occasionally encounter, ranging from the squawking hadedahs at 5am to the smell of a neighbour’s freshly lit braai wafting over the wall. Without even giving it a second thought, we often find ourselves seeking or even to some degree avoiding these sensory experiences in order to meet the demands of everyday life and keep ourselves regulated.

Over the years, South African drivers have built up a notorious name for themselves. A peak hour traffic jam is a perfect example. Picture this- cars jam packed bumper to bumper across all four lanes, moving at snails’ pace. Whilst most are law abiding citizens, we always have exceptions to the rule. For those select few a traffic jam automatically means making a beeline for the emergency lane. On a day when I have to encounter a situation like this, the constant stop, start, emergency breaking, hooting back and forth, I feel myself becoming completely unhinged and dysregulated and the day hasn’t even begun yet! A cup of something warm (Rooibos tea!) in hand often allows for much needed sensory input, bringing about a calm state in which I can function optimally. Each sip just feels like home.

South African’s are pretty adaptable beings- 14 years of load shedding really does that to you! One minute it’s light, and the next you are plunged into complete darkness- a completely unique sensory experience of its own! As inconvenient as the two-hour periods can be, they bring about an unusual calmness and serenity- no bright lights, no blaring TV’s, just the darkness. The hustle and bustle seems to grind to a halt and for a rare moment I can actually process my thoughts. A part of me is grateful for these forced moments of “down time” where I can remove myself from the sensory overload that is daily life. It gives me time with my family, who usually gather in one room waiting the two hours out together. It’s laughing, giggles, life advice and just general “togetherness” that we otherwise would probably never get. It’s home. Who would have thought that load shedding allowed for self-regulation? Who would have thought that load shedding felt like home?

Growing up in Durban meant that almost every home on our street proudly displayed their ever-blooming Jasmine that crept over fences and released the most beautiful scent. The sweet scent was identifiable from a couple of streets away, signifying that home was near. It only occurred to me recently that every single one of my perfumes contain Jasmine as an ingredient. Am I unconsciously self-regulating? A spritz and spray in the morning brings about the familiar scent that is grounding, familiar and calming- it smells like coming home.

Our beautiful country offers a myriad of unique sensory experiences that I could go on and on describing, from our incredible beaches to our midday electrical storms amidst mountains that seem to stretch far beyond what the eye can see. Each one holds a significant meaning for every one of us, helping us to centre ourselves and begin again. We encounter these unique sensory experiences every single day and we cope; we cope through engaging in small acts and experiences that allow us to self-regulate and bring us back on track. Home is not a place. Home is a sensory experience.


1.Smith K. Thank you Rusk and Co! [Internet]. 2021 January 25 [cited 2021 February 14]