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Mobile sensory room in converted bus paying monthly visits to Wick

By Donald Wilson

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MFR charity manager Lyndsay Rose with Jon Lane.
MFR charity manager Lyndsay Rose with Jon Lane.

Children with autism and other conditions are benefiting from regular visits to Caithness by a mobile sensory room.

The innovative service is called Out There and operates from a converted bus.

It is the brainchild of Jon Lane, who has more than 25 years’ experience of supporting children and adults with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Wick is one of three towns that are receiving monthly visits as part of his plan to reach those in need across the north.

Mr Lane, a former care manager from Cawdor, near Nairn, said: “Children with ASD often find the world an overwhelming, confusing and upsetting place and need the time, space and comfort of a sensory room to help them.

“However, these rooms are all too few and far between, especially in the less populated areas of the Highlands.

“We have mobile libraries, banks, health screening and cinemas, so why not a mobile sensory room?”

Mr Lane has been supporting youngsters in the Nairn area for some time and now Highland charity MFR Cash for Kids has agreed to fund a partnership that will enable him to travel to Wick, Aviemore and Elgin once a month.

Twelve free places in the sensory room will be offered via an online booking system soon to be available on the Out There Facebook page.

“It’s a very exciting time for the project and I hope to be out there meeting children and parents who need this service very soon,” Mr Lane said.

“Since announcing this partnership, the response online has been nothing short of a tsunami of demand.”

He had a successful visit to Wick on November 11 and will be back on December 2, with further dates planned on January 13 and February 3.

“I’m being asked to visit places far and wide right across the Highlands and Moray,” Mr Lane said. "I might need to make more visits to the Wick area to meet the large need for services."

The vehicle, a former Network Rail welfare bus, has been converted to contain a fully functioning sensory room which is insulated, soundproofed and carpeted. It contains a large, raised bed unit with memory-foam top, soft cushions and a weighted blanket.

“I have worked at all levels and in both residential and community-based settings,” he explained.

“Over the past few years, I have grown a great reputation locally in Nairn for my work supporting children on the autistic spectrum to safely access community-based activities and amenities.

“It was while supporting these young children that I became aware of a specific support need, that of a sensory space, a space that would be available all year round and that could move from location to location to enable a greater number of people to access the service without the need to travel large distances.”

Further information is available at www.facebook.com/outtherenairn or by contacting Jon Lane via email at outtherenairn@btinternet.com

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