A NEW sensory room that is up-and-running in the last two months at the Little Angels community childcare service in Athy is ensuring that children with additional needs are fully catered for.
Childcare manager Valerie Ryan explained that the need for such a room came from staff. She completed the LINC programme – designed for early years workers to promote the inclusion of children with special needs – in September 2016 while all staff have completed AIM training around equality, diversity and inclusion.
The room includes soft flooring, blackout blinds, soft chairs, sensory toys and soft lighting for the children who use it and donations were given by Ocatronics, KARE in Newbridge and Mary Minahan of Childcare Solutions Limited. Staff and parents also contributed to furnishing the room.
“The children actually love going in there,” she said of the sensory room. “They don’t want to come out of it.”
Valerie noted that they have seen the benefits since the new space opened, describing it as having a calming and soothing effect. Some of the children, she said, can find the noise volume in the other rooms irritating, and the sensory room is something of a space where they can come and relax.
According to Valerie, a total of 41 children from 14 different nationalities attend the service and inclusivity is very important for them. The sensory room is the fifth in operation at the service, which was founded back in 1986 by Sister Rosarii Martin and is overseen by an active board of directors, alongside rooms for babies and toddlers and two ECCE (free pre-school year) rooms. She also noted that Bernie Mackey is the coordinator of the service and described her as the driving force behind the scenes who ensures the effective running of Little Angels.
Alongside working with the Kildare County Childcare Committee, Little Angels is engaging with a project around speech and language and occupational therapy for children. The aim is to improve how they can communicate with and relate to children coming to their service with additional needs.
“It’s just to include all children,” Valerie said.