Children, parents and staff held a summer garden party at children’s residential home, Cedar House, in Newton Aycliffe. They celebrated the completion of a stimulating sensory outdoor play space which will benefit 8 children and young people (11-18) with autism.

The North East Autism Society (NEAS) provides a range of services for children, young people and adults on the autism spectrum. Cedar House is one of four children’s residential homes provided by NEAS.

Cedar House comprises 8 self-contained apartments which meet specific sensory needs, where children and young people with autism are able to receive the specialist support they need. The residents of Cedar House were heavily involved in the planning and designing of the outdoor area. They decided what they would like and identified how they benefit from the project.

NEAS managed to secure many aspects of the sensory space through donations and gifts from parents, staff and local businesses. These included a range of plants, soil, play equipment, solar lighting, and sensory accessories. A pergola and stage area was also built by NEAS service users at Thornbeck College as part of their vocational activity.

The Graham Wylie Foundation donated £4,950 which has been used to provide safety rubberised flooring that can be enjoyed by the children all year round. The flooring also minimises injury and maximises play and development potential of children due to its cushioning and impact absorbing abilities.

NEAS welcomed founder Graham Wylie and Chief Executive Angie Jenkison from the Foundation to officially open the sensory garden and join the celebrations.

Graham Wylie said:

I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to announce the opening of the garden which will benefit this group of children and young people now and am confident will continue to do so well into the future

Research has proven that sensory outdoor spaces encourage mental development, health improvements, emotional growth, social integration, and sensory regulation, in addition to increasing learning motivation.

The improvement of the safety and accessibility of the outdoor area at Cedar House will ensure the young people have access to a suitable space to play, learn and explore their senses without worry.

John Phillipson, Chief Executive of North East Autism Society, said: “Autism prevalence is steadily rising, with at least 1 in every 100 people currently diagnosed, and a 500% increase in children presenting for diagnosis within the last five years at the Great North Children’s Hospital.

This increase in diagnosis translates to an increase in demand for all services offering support for people with autism and their families. Many children will be referred to our services in the coming years and we need to be able to give them the best environment and experiences to ensure they are able to reach their full potential.

“We are delighted with the final result and thankful to the Graham Wylie Foundation for the kind donation.”