Seb and Olivia's Den
We are a group of parents and carers of children and young people with additional needs who are fundraising for a sensory room in memory of two very special children - Seb and Olivia.
Ability 2 Play is run by staff from Active Northumberland, which runs sports and leisure centres and activities across Northumberland. Activity 2 Play celebrates its 10th birthday in 2016 and was set up to provide opportunities for children, young people and adults with additional needs to meet, socialise, play and take part in disability friendly sports.
The play scheme that many of the children and young people attend at Northburn, known as Freestyle, arose out of the need to provide welcoming environment to play safely on their own terms, supported
by staff, whilst their parents and carers enjoyed a cup of coffee and a friendly chat. Children attending sessions have a variety of physical and learning difficulties and Northburn provides an inclusive environment where they can play together, regardless of age or ability. A typical session at Freestyle would involve around 30 children and 20 parents/carers. A disability friendly sports team which has 20 members and newly formed social group for adults with additional needs also meets at Northburn.
We are a group of parents, carers and friends who met at these Freestyle sessions at Northburn Sports and Community Centre. We came together formally in April 2016 as Seb and Olivia’ s Den to fundraise to equip a sensory room, in memory of two very special children who attended Freestyle. Since forming our committee, we have thrown ourselves into fundraising and aim to raise around £30,000 to create this sensory room. We want to transform a redundant changing room into a stimulating and safe sensory space, full of tactile, auditory and visual stimulae for children, young people and adults with additional needs. Many of our users are unable to safely play with normal toys or lack the cognitive ability to join in more structured sessions but are able to benefit individually from stimulation in a sensory room. Play sessions are fun, noisy and stimulating and provide a great opportunity for everyone to enjoy a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment but sometimes these sessions are overwhelming for some of our users and a sensory room would provide a welcome respite from the main activity area.
We want the sensory room to be open to all current users of Northburn and for individual use outside of organised play and sports sessions. When complete, we will charge a small fee to use the room, mindful that many of our families are on low incomes and are often unable to work because of their caring commitments. The room will be managed by trained volunteers from Seb and Olivia’s Den and staff from Active Northumberland.
How would this funding have an impact on your community?
If successful with this funding application, we would be able to put £500 towards the cost of equipping a sensory room with specialist equipment. We have already raised over £8,000 to cover building work and are now looking at funding specialist equipment including a projector, bubble tubes, lights, mirrors, a sound system, mats, curtains and supportive furniture.
Once developed, we will have a safe and stimulating space where users can go to relax and enjoy a suitable environment, with a variety of tactile, visual and audible stimuli. Our users have a range of additional needs from those with profound and multiple disabilities to those with Autistic Spectrum disorders and we want this room to be of benefit to as many of our children, young people and adults as possible. In addition to those attending regular play and disability sports sessions during the term and holidays, we will open the room to other users as required and will use our contacts locally to let other special needs groups and their members know about the sensory room.
Based on 2015/16 average monthly attendance figures, 52 disabled under 16's, 18 parents/carers, and 37 disabled adults will benefit from this project.
The grant will give children, young people and adults with additional needs in the area a new space to relax and play in a safe and stimulating environment for many years to come. Children and young people with disabilities often struggle to find a safe place to play and relax, where they, and their parents, carers and siblings, will not feel restricted or judged and coming to disability play sessions can be a lifeline to many families, particularly during the long school holidays. Parents have told us how they struggle sometimes to cope with the demands of looking after children with additional needs and coming to a welcoming club at Northburn has made them feel less isolated and more supported. Parents offer mutual support and often share information and knowledge, again reducing feelings of inadequacy and isolation.
Children, young people and adults attending our sessions often experience multiple disadvantage -disability, ill health, lack of opportunity to play, socialise, work or train, suffer from social isolation and often are living in a low income household. This project goes some way to breaking down these barriers of multiple disadvantage by providing opportunities to play and socialise in a fully accessible building. The majority of our users come from the South East Northumberland area but as play facilities suitable for children, young people and adults with additional needs are limited in a large county like Northumberland, families will travel some distances to attend sessions and meet other families and carers to combat social isolation.
"Jamie and I love coming to Northburn and meeting up with other children with special needs. Keeping in touch with other parents and carers is really important to me too. Having a sensory room to use would be a fantastic addition - there aren't many places locally where we can go and completely relax on Jamie's own terms.
Diane Hudson, mum of Jamie, Chair of Seb and Olivia's Den and user of Northburn."