Creating a sensory-friendly space at Alder Hey

Creating a sensory-friendly space at Alder Hey

Creating a sensory-friendly space at Alder Hey

14th Oct 2022

Contact have published a new report about their work at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to create a more sensory friendly environment for children and young people visiting. 

The report, Sensory Friendly Environments North West, highlights their work with staff at the hospital and neurodiverse children and young people and their families to investigate what changes could be made to improve the experiences of children with sensory processing differences – estimated to be around 60% of children visiting the hospital.  

“It was the best experience we have had in three years of going to Alder Hey” 
A parent visiting the hospital with their son 

As well as listening to the experiences of children visiting the hospital and increasing staff’s understanding of sensory differences, Alder Hey also put in place a range of changes and equipment to help, including specially designed sensory toy boxes to calm and distract children in clinical areas, developed with the expert support of Contact’s team.

Often it was small changes that made the biggest difference. For example, offering a quiet space to wait reduced some children’s anxiety and meant they were better able to engage in their hospital appointments. Or fixing curtains in an inpatient room which meant a child who was sensitive to light and had not slept for days could sleep better and engage positively in activities later that day. 

“We are more aware now of sensory needs and recognising when it is sensory and not just behaviour”
Alder Hey staff member 

Contact would like to see more settings building on the work done at Alder Hey to work collaboratively with parent carers and children and young people to create sensory friendly environments. 

Read the full independent evaluation of Sensory Friendly Environments North West, by Edge Hill University which reviews the impact of the project. 

Watch this short animation developed as part of the project to help people understand how hospital noises, lights and smells can distress or over stimulate some children with sensory processing differences. 

Contact worked with Sefton and Livpac Parent Carer forums, young people from Alder Hey Youth Forum and Sefton Camhelions and the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) whose ‘experts by experience’ brought the training to life. 

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