Parents message of thanks for charity support
The parents of a three-year-old girl from Monifieth, near Dundee, have publicly thanked Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families, for funding a pack of tactile sensory equipment for their daughter.
Elena Johnston, who attends Grange Primary Nursery in the town, has Downs syndrome and autism, conditions that have left her non-verbal. She has sensory processing difficulties and together with delays in her social communication skills she finds it difficult to socialise with other children.
“My daughter has some sensory issues and struggles to communicate,” explained Elena’s mother Leona, aged 33. “At home she finds it difficult to play with standard games and toys.
“She hasn’t got the strength in her fingers to hold on to certain things and she can’t flick switches, which can sometimes frustrate her.”
Elena goes to a disabled children’s play group in Dundee, where she has used lots of interactive equipment in its sensory room. So when her Occupational Therapist told Leona that multi-sensory equipment would also be good to use at home she decided to turn her daughter’s bedroom into a sensory room.
Leona and her 39-year-old husband, Paul, looked at what specialist equipment would best suit their daughter’s needs.
“There was quite a lot to choose from,” explained Paul. “From projectors and bubble tubes to fibre optic lights and dark dens.
“In the end we thought that the tactile equipment pack would be best suited for Elena as it was colourful and highly visual.
“It also contains a musical panel, a high power light board that included 192 LEDs, and an ultraviolet ripple mat that glows intensely under UV light.
”It’s also brilliant at encouraging exploratory play!”
However, it soon became apparent that there wold be a financial barrier to Leona and Paul buying the tactile equipment for Elena. As Leona explained: “The pack that we wanted to buy cost eye watering £963, which was way beyond the family’s budget.
“We’d resigned ourselves to being unable to buy the equipment, which was really sad because we knew it would benefit our daughter so much.”
But then a friend suggested contacting Caudwell Children to see if they could fund the pack.
“I emailed the charity and they sent me out an application form which I completed,” said Leona. “We couldn’t believe it when they agreed to fund the tactile pack, we were overwhelmed.”
Elena received the equipment just before Christmas and Paul says it was the perfect Christmas present which has already had a positive impact on her life. As he explained: “She’s interacting a lot and she’s not in her own world anymore. She laughs when we sing Ring a Ring of Roses with her.
“When we get to the part where it goes ‘A tissue a tissue we all fall down’ we then gently push her over and she can’t stop giggling, and then she wants to do it again!
“She’s become more vocal in trying to sing and making noises along with the songs.”
Leona says the equipment will also grow with her daughter. As she explained: “At the moment she struggles to turn some of the leavers and press some of the buttons, but as she gains more strength in her fingers she will be able to do that.
“She can work an iPad but doesn’t have any interest in standard toys, however, she does loves cause and effect games so the tactile pack is brilliant for her.
“At the moment she uses my fingers to operate certain parts, which is really cute, but’s shell soon be able to do it all herself.
“We can’t thank Caudwell Children enough for all their support, they’re amazing!”
Mark Bushell, from Caudwell Children, is delighted that the charity could support Elena. As he explained: “It’s fantastic when parents tell us that we’ve had such a positive impact on a child.
“Without Caudwell Children’s funding many parents would be unable to buy this equipment as it doesn’t come cheap.
“Tactile packs can’t be secured through statutory funding so it’s really important that the charity continues to fill this gap in provision.
“Each feature in the pack has been designed to engage children and hopefully it will continue to attract Elena’s attention and enable her and the family to relax together.
“But we couldn’t do it without the support of the public and it’s only through their generous donations that we will be able to continue supporting other children like Elena.”
To find out more about Caudwell Children and the services that they provide, or to make a donation, visit teh web page here.