Need to promote inclusion and support children of all ages and disabilities

By Mary Dennehy

THE need for locally-based, socially inclusive activities for all children with special needs and their siblings was evident last weekend, when close to 150 kids took part in an Easter egg hunt in Tymon Park.

The event, which ran over three sessions and was fully booked out, was organised by Sensory Fun with Friends, a parent-led voluntary group that holds events for children with sensory needs such as autism, Down syndrome and sensory processing disorder.

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Charlie and Holly enjoying the Easter egg hunt in Tymon Park last Sunday

Established last year by local parents Lynn Byrne, Eileen Birchall and Leone McCarney, Sensory Fun with Friends was created out of the pure frustration experienced by parents - many of whom felt excluded when it came to activities and events suitable for all of their children.

Living in Killinarden, Lynn Byrne, one of the group’s founding members, has a 15-year-old son called Glenn who has non-verbal ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

She told The Echo: “When Glenn was growing up there was nothing for him to go to with his siblings.

“We were very excluded when it came to family events.  

“There was nothing that families could go to together that included all ages and all special needs, so between myself, Eileen and Leone we started Sensory Fun with Friends.”

She added: “Offering events for children with all special needs and their siblings is so important for social inclusion and for sibling awareness.

“Some families are very confined when it comes to socialising together and I myself felt socially excluded.”

However, thanks to the voluntary efforts of Lynn, Eileen and Leone, who are supported by a parent-led committee of volunteers, families now have year-round activities, events and camps to attend at affordable prices.

“The Easter egg hunt last Sunday showed the need for these activities,” Lynn said.

“We were fully booked out and had a number of families on our cancellation list.

Need for affordable, local activities

“There is a need for affordable, low-cost, local activities that promote inclusion and support children of all ages and disabilities… and their siblings.”

Currently the group is self-funded however, they are in the process of applying for a community grant to help develop services.

The group is also hoping to highlight the need for these activities, which allow brothers and sisters to socialise together in a fun, sensory environment.

Sensory Fun with Friends, which organises camps and activities such as swimming, yoga and art, has invited families to visit its Facebook page for contact details and information on upcoming events over the Easter holidays and beyond.

The group thanked local councillors Cathal King and Dermot Richardson for opening the event last Sunday.

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