North Coast Community Services infant/supported child development consultant Sarah Browne demonstrates a vibrating sensory tray in their new sensory playroom. (Karissa Gall/The Northern View)

Sensory playroom opens for children with special needs

NCCS opens playroom in Prince Rupert, Family Connections receives award nomination

City supports for children with special needs are being recognized online and by AutismBC ahead of World Autism Awareness Month, which takes place in April.

A new source of support for children with special needs is the North Coast Community Services sensory playroom, which NCCS showed off with an open house as part of their Inclusion Toolbox Conference this past weekend.

Flooring for the new playroom was finished two weeks ago and it is furnished with features that promote self-regulation and motor skills, such as an interactive projector, bubble tube, quiet corner with tactile books, and climbing wall.

NCCS executive director Sherry Beal said the playroom was made possible after they submitted a funding proposal to the Ministry of Children and Family Development. After a negotiation process that began last August, their proposal was selected by the province and they received $65,000 for the project.

“The sensory room has been a dream of ours for a number of years,” Beal said, adding that parents who are concerned about their child’s development can now contact NCCS for information about their open referral process.

Rupert mother Britt Finnigan got a sneak peak of the room earlier this month and posted about it on Instagram.

“My son does have autism so we accessed the playroom one time [when it was] just up and running,” Finnigan told the Northern View. “It’s amazing. It’s absolutely awesome.”

READ MORE: B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Finnigan has also received recognition of her own.

Along with Sarah MacCarthy, she has been nominated for a 2019 AutismBC community impact award for work related to their organization Prince Rupert Family Connections, which launched an autism family support fair last April.

Finnigan said the fair connects families with each other and with services, such as NCCS and the Berry Patch.

It also creates a pleasing environment for children with sensory processing disorders so that they can take part in a community event rather than feeling like an outsider on the periphery.

“One of the biggest challenges for families, especially in the north, is initially getting that diagnosis for your child,” she said. “It is very difficult. The wait times are very long.

“Once that diagnosis has been given, the next step is accessing services and resources for your child. Again, a huge challenge in the north is having access to those things as opposed to in a larger city centre.

“The process itself is very difficult, it’s very emotional, and if we can lighten that load for anybody, that was what we were after doing.”

READ MORE: Fight for autism diagnosis arduous for adults in B.C.

Finnigan said the second annual fair will take place on April 27 in the Civic Centre auditorium.

This year, however, she said they are making the fair more inclusive, opening it up to children with other disorders than autism.

“We’re opening it up to the entire special needs community in Prince Rupert,” she said. “The reason we’re doing that is a lot of the services that children with special needs tend to need to access are across the board.”

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