Opportunities to play with Sense

Steve Rose, Head of Children’s Specialist ServicesSteve Rose

Did you know that Sense family centres offer a range of services for deafblind and sensory impaired children?

Across the country there are four family centres that provide local support to deafblind and sensory impaired children and their families. Each respond to local needs in different ways, but at the core there are a number of things that our centres provide:

  • Family days – days for the whole family, where families come together and share fun times as well as catch up with the team.
  • Parent/ carer groups – these are regular (weekly, monthly, termly) groups for parents/carers and their young children to play, sing and relax in a supportive atmosphere.
  • Toy and resource libraries – Although some specialist toys can be really expensive, other non-specialist items are inexpensive and may not be thought of as typical play activities. Our toy and resource libraries allow families to borrow toys and equipment to try things out.
  • Assessments – we provide holistic assessments addressing children’s multi-sensory needs.   Whilst our centres provide specialist environments, families find that the atmosphere is relaxed and we can work to the child’s individual needs.

Parent groups are really important.  They are a chance for parents to come together in a relaxed atmosphere to meet the Sense team and other parents and carers who face the same challenges as them.  Whilst deafblindness and sensory impairment impacts on different children in different ways, there are lots of commonalities.  Parents find talking to others is a chance to get a fresh perspective and to come up with their own solutions. It’s a chance to establish friendships and find out about play, communication and to have fun!

Our regular parent groups include:

  • Sparkles – Every Tuesday at the Hadley Family Centre in North London
  • Twiglets – Every Friday at the Woodside Family Centre in Bristol, and an inclusive play group Woodpeckers every Wednesday afternoon
  • Mini Magpies – First Thursday of the month at the Manor Lodge Family Centre near Peterborough

Each centre runs different sessions.  A typical session at the Hadley Family Centre in North London includes:

  • Meeting up over a cup of coffee and exchanging the week’s news and developmentsKiera BARVE1
  • Everyone singing some action songs – the children love the actions, the anticipation, repetition and familiarity and they help develop body awareness too.
  • A sensory story – currently ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’ is brought to life with long swishy grass, splashing water and squelchy mud to play with!
  • Finally a chance to explore the centre – everyone has their favourite from the sensory room, water play or the garden.

Throughout the sessions, our Children and Family Support Workers are on hand to help out and organise the activities.  As well as being an extra pair of hands they help signpost parents to toys and resources as well as making contact with other members of the team when needed.

Why are Sense sessions different from other play groups?

  • Our groups are different because, they are designed in a multi-sensory way to build on children’s strengths and provide opportunities to support their needs.
  • All the family are welcome – brothers and sisters who are also preschool age can join in the group and everyone has a chance to enjoy the games.
  • We provide access to team members with specialist knowledge about the impact of deafblindness / sensory impairment and additional needs.
  • It doesn’t matter is anyone is having a bad day – you can join in when you can, or hang around the centre when you need a break.
  • Our centre is a home away from home, it has been designed to be relaxed and informal and parents say that it’s one of the few places that they don’t have to worry.

Daniel Hall 1And the pictures of the children say it all!

If you would like to know more about our sessions please Email: info@sense.org.uk or phone: 0300 330 9256 or 020 7520 0972.


More information about Sense’s services for families is available here.


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