Alder Hey to create sensory friendly environments for children and young people

Alder Hey to create sensory friendly environments for children and young people

Alder Hey to create sensory friendly environments for children and young people

6th Jul 2022

We are proud to announce that we have been working to create sensory friendly environments for children and young people, their families and carers here at Alder Hey.

The project has been led and developed by neurodiverse children and young people including the Alder Hey Youth Forum and the Camhelions (Sefton) group, families of children and young people with sensory needs and the Northwest Parent Carer Forum including LivPac and the Sefton Parent Carer Forum. The input from children and young people, parents/carers, hospital and community staff has been invaluable to this project so far. 

The project is also led by Lisa Cooper (Director of Community and Mental Health Services at Alder Hey) with colleagues and partners including Contact for families of disabled children and the National Development Team for inclusion (NDTi). 

The below video outlines the journey through a hospital a child or young person may experience due to sensory issues within the environment. This is Alex’s story:

Thinking about sensory needs, the team included the five senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch and also the three internal senses of: 

  • interoception (how your body feels)
  • proprioception (where you are in space)
  • vestibular (balance). 

These internal senses can impact on things like how young people experience and express pain, how they experience a certain type of space, getting in a lift or types of invasive equipment, for example.

The aims of the project are to:

  • Support clinical and non-clinical staff working within Alder Hey to understand children and young peoples’ sensory needs 
  • Map the journeys children, young people and families/carers often take using ‘walk throughs’, for example through the main hospital atrium, to outpatient settings or to wards 
  • Improve the experience for children, young people and families/carers through every part of their journey. 
  • Improve how children and young peoples’ needs are supported through person-centred pathways and a more flexible environment

The project has been divided into three phases:

Listening phase: which involved ‘walk throughs’ the hospital as young people attended for a planned visit. Questionnaires were developed and focus groups were held to ask children, young people, families/carers and staff for their views on how to improve the hospital to be a better place to be for children and young people with sensory processing differences and sensory impairment. 

A Plan & Test Phase: this has included developing training and specific activities in departments, wards and other areas.

A Review Phase: Edge Hill University have been appointed to provide an independent evaluation of the work on the project and help us ensure future work is useful for people who use the hospital.

We have also been collaborating with the Great North Children’s Hospital and our Northwest commissioning colleagues, so we can share our learning across other areas. We have learnt so much already and training has started to support our understanding about the needs of our children, young people, families and carers about what we can do to improve experiences. We still have lots to do and hope that together we can continue to listen and learn to enhance our environment for all.

We look forward to updating you on the progress of this project in the future. 

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