Ashfield family to create sensory bus for youngsters with special educational needs

A family from Jacksdale have purchased a single-decker bus, which they plan to fill with sensory equipment for children with special educational needs.

Melanie and Mark Wilson have received a grant of £7,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund, which allowed them to purchase the bus from Liverpool.

Mark, Melanie and Riley Wilson

Mark, Melanie and Riley Wilson

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However, they still need to raise £15,000 to kit the bus out with specialist equipment, including interactive floors and walls.

The couple set up their charity, The Riley Foundation, in the name of their seven-year-old son who was diagnosed with severe nonverbal autism when he was three.

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.

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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 willtravel to festivals, schools, fairs, shopping centres and supermarkets so that families of children and adults with SEN can enjoy a day out

The bus willtravel to festivals, schools, fairs, shopping centres and supermarkets so that families of children and adults with SEN can enjoy a day out

The bus will 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.

Mrs Wilson said: "The bus is now in Huthwaite, waiting to be wrapped - it is exciting.

"The bus will be kitted out with interactive floors and walls to provide a fully subversive environment.

"The walls and floors can simulate water or snow, and mimics real-life.

The bus will be kitted out with interactive floors and walls to provide a fully subversive environment.

The bus will be kitted out with interactive floors and walls to provide a fully subversive environment.

"There will also be a sensory ball pit with mood lighting.

"Riley doesn't learn by being told things, he needs to interact, and sensory equipment lets him learn in a safe and simulating environment."

The family plan to take the bus to community days out, like family fun days, so families of children with special needs don's have to miss out.

And it's not just summer events the bus will be used for - Mrs Wilson hopes to turn it into a sensory Santa's Grotto, as Riley has never been to see Santa.

"Riley is seven, and he's never seen Santa. We try every year but with the queuing and all the people around it just hasn't been possible.

"We hope to have lots of time slots of around 20 minutes for children to take their time, rather than being rushed in and out. It's a magical experience and a massive part of childhood."

To help Melanie, Mark and Riley hit their goal, please donate to their Gofundme page here: The Riley Foundation
To find out more about The Riley Foundation, visit their Facebook page here: facebook.com/therileyfoundation123/