Derry mother aiming to raise £2k for special ‘sensory room’ at school

Ann Marie Coyle and her husband Christopher pictured with her children, Alice, left and, Molly, right.
Ann Marie Coyle and her husband Christopher pictured with her children, Alice, left and, Molly, right.

A Derry mother has taken it upon herself to raise the £2,000 needed to equip a special sensory room at her daughters’ school.

Ann Marie Coyle’s children, Alice, aged seven and Molly, aged five, are both autistic.

The girls attend Derry’s Model Primary School where Ann Marie has praised staff who she says do everything they can to cater for her children within a dedicated Autism Unit. There are currently eight children using the unit.

Ann Marie believes a sensory room, using a space which the school is happy to provide, would enrich the school experience for those children who use the Autism unit and other children within the school.

A sensory room provides different kinds of stimulai for children who have Autism as well as children with other additional needs.

“This is a fantastic school and also has a Learning Support Unit for key stage 2 as well as many other students with Autism and additional sensory needs throughout the mainstream classes,” explained Ann Marie.

“Sensory rooms are so important for emotional regulation and fulfilling needs from all the senses such as visual and tactile. A sensory room can also help children to stay calm when they are feeling anxious and that in turn helps them to learn when it is used as part of their daily structure. This would benefit all the children in the school.”

Ann Marie’s daughter Alice was diagnosed with Autism when she was five while her youngest daughter Molly was diagnosed at four.

“Both girls are completely different and have totally different needs,” said Ann Marie.

“Molly is completely non verbal. She doesn’t speak at all. However Alice loves to talk. No two children are the same and my two certainly prove that. Every child with Autism is completely different too. Molly likes to have everything very loud while Alice needs things to be very quiet.”

Ann Marie said that while attitudes to Autism are changing, she believes it’s important to educate younger children more about it.

“There is definitely more awareness out there. Alice goes to the Jigsaw Club which runs a youth club on a Friday and has loads of activities for children all through the year. It’s a fantastic group and definitely helps Alice with her social skills and trying new things in a safe space.”

Ann Marie said that for her, one of the main priorities is that her children are accepted and that the world is made a more welcoming space for them to be a part of. She believes the sensory room would be a big step in this direction, as she explained.

“It would be great to live in a world where my children, and others like them, can just be themselves,” she said.

“The more spaces we have which allow them to do that is a good thing. To have a sensory room in the school would be amazing and it would allow other children to experience and learn more about children who have additional needs too.

“Unfortunately, the money just isn’t there to provide this space so we’ve decided to raise it ourselves,” she added.

“We need to raise £2,000 so donations of all sizes would be really welcome.”

To donate, visit: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/modelprimarysensoryroom