Community leader turns her office into sensory room for disabled children.

By Harry Browse

A chairperson of a Norfolk Park community organisation has transformed her office into a room for children with disabilities and special educational needs.

The room, which has been furnished with an LED bubble tube, sensory lighting and a reading area, was opened to the public yesterday.

It is one of only five public sensory rooms in Sheffield which are commonly used as therapy centres for children with limited communication skills.

Kim McMaster, 50, chairperson of the Norfolk Park Tenants and Residents Association (TARA) said: “We worked out that 70% of our children had a special educational need. So, we saw a need and I didn’t need an office.

“We could stick a desk anywhere, which we’ve done, and now we’ve got the sensory room. It’s a much better use of the space.”

The Norfolk Park TARA raised over £800 to fund the new sensory room. Donations came from local residents, Sheffield County Council’s Community Fund and the Leeds Building Society.

Councillor Pat Midgley, who represents the ward of Manor Castle, welcomed the new sensory room and said she hoped the project could be replicated in other areas of the city.

Kirsty Smurf, 30, who is on the Norfolk Park TARA committee, has two daughters diagnosed with autism.

She said: “Your life changes, you work round them.

“You’ve got your family events, weddings, we just don’t go to them because it’s just too much for them, so you are isolated. If it weren’t for the TARA flat, I would be isolated, it’s the only reason we’ve got out.

“Even my kids love coming and now we have the sensory room, that’s all they want to do. They want to come in, chill out, relax a bit and the night seems to go that little bit smoother.”

The Norfolk Park TARA was established in 1966 and Kim McMaster has served as its chairperson for the past 15 years.

The association works with Sheffield County Council, South Yorkshire Police, local housing associations and private homeowners. It also hosts weekly craft and homework sessions for children from Norfolk Community Primary School.

Originally submitted for portfolio assessment.

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