Through its Small Grants Capital funding, Essex Short Breaks for Disabled Children and Young People, Essex County Council has awarded funding to Sport For Confidence CIC, to provide individuals who face barriers to sporting participation with access to specialist sensory equipment.
“This funding will help Sport For Confidence to further enhance its inclusive sports provision to hundreds of young people across the county”, explains Megan Potts, Occupational Therapist at Sport For Confidence. “Many of the young people we support have autism or a sensory processing disorder and can find the leisure centre to be an overwhelming sensory environment. The sensory toys can be used as a coping strategy and will enable our customers to access mainstream sporting opportunities.
“As part of our work to address this, for the last few years, we have teamed up with the Action For Children (AFC) charity, to provide inclusive sports clubs during the school holidays. All our sessions are designed and managed by an occupational therapist, working alongside a sports coach, to ensure everyone involved benefits from a fulfilling, inclusive and fun, sporting experience.
“Many schools are already running sensory circuits and the sessions have been found to increase handwriting skills and attention span (Horwood,J. 2008, Sensory Circuits). In addition to integrating the equipment into our main sessions, we will also be able to use it to calm children who become overwhelmed, adding a therapeutic element to our provision, helping to reintegrate them into the physical activity session as quickly as possible.’
The grant will enable Sport For Confidence to purchase sensory equipment for use at 7 leisure centres across Essex. The bid was submitted pre-Covid. All equipment and usage will undergo the necessary risk assessment to ensure its safe integration into daily practice.
Speaking about the funding, Councillor Louise McKinlay, Caninet Member for Children and Families, Essex County Council , says: “I am delighted that this grant funding is to be used to support children with autism and sensory processing disorder to access sport. Not only does sport improve a child’s confidence and wellbeing, it is something that should be enjoyed by all. The sensory equipment purchased with the grant funds is invaluable to ensuring that hundreds more young people in Essex can experience this ”.
Megan concludes: “I believe this is the first time sensory equipment will be integrated into leisure centres on such a county wide scale. Everyone, regardless of ability and circumstance, deserves the right to access quality sporting facilities and services. This recent funding to supply specialist equipment, improves accessibility and opens a new door of sporting opportunity to hundreds of young people across the county.”