Ashfield family aim to raise £25,000 for sensory play bus

Mark, Melanie and Riley
Mark, Melanie and Riley

A family from Jacksdale have launched a fundraising drive to provide a sensory bus for children with special educational needs (SEN).

Melanie and Mark Wilson aim to raise £25,000 for the bus for The Riley Foundation, which they set up in the name of their son.

Riley Wilson

Riley Wilson

Riley Wilson, aged seven, was diagnosed with severe nonverbal autism when he was three.

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He has since been diagnosed with ADHD, sensory processing disorder, speech apraxia, anxiety, sleep disorder and PICA (persistent eating of inedible objects), meaning he is a child with complex and severe needs.

Mr and Mrs Wilson had the idea of a bus equipped with special sensory apparatus after seeing other families struggle with isolation and exclusion.

The bus would travel to festivals, schools, fairs, shopping centres and supermarkets so that families of children and adults with SEN can enjoy a day out, knowing there is somewhere inclusive for them.

Riley and mum Melanie

Riley and mum Melanie

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Sensory equipment such as mood lights and bubble tubes help to improve cognitive development and brain function, whilst encouraging children to explore their environment.

Sensory equipment is important to SEN children as it helps them to develop essential motor skills, it encourages them to relax and focus on tasks whilst providing a sense of calm and reducing stress and anxiety.

Mrs Wilson said: "We sometimes struggle to take Riley to public events, knowing there are no appropriate, suitable facilities for him.

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"I know lots of parents who have children with SEN and without SEN, and it's difficult to find something to suit everybody, but we aim to bring people together with the bus.

"We hope to bring families into an accepting community - if we take Riley on a day out and he gets upset, people do stare and judge.

"It can feel very isolating and put you off going to events and days out.

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"All of the Riley Foundation Staff have experience with children with SEN, so they understand."

The bus will be versatile, and can be taken to schools where there is no sensory equipment.

It will have wheelchair access and a variety of spaces to suit different needs.

"Many schools have no budget for sensory equipment, but if we can take a bus to the schools, we can take the services to them, and show the authorities how much these services are needed," added Mrs Wilson.

"Lots of children with SEN haven't had a birthday party, or can't go to weddings and family events, so we aim to make those events more accessible."

The Riley Foundation has gathered the support of Ashfield's MP Gloria Di Piero, who is helping the family explore some of the funding options that are available their idea off the ground.

A charity football tournament will be held on August 17 to raise funds for the bus.

The tournament will take place at Ashfield School on Sutton Road between 10am and 4pm.

As well as the tournament there will be craft stalls, food stalls, face painting and a bouncy castle.

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