CHILDREN from Sensory Kids in Broughshane enjoyed meeting ‘Mr. Pickles’ last week during their visit to the farm outside the village.
And ‘Mr. Pickles’, a tiny miniature horse, certainly loved his time in the limelight.
To say he was pampered is an understatement as the youngsters fed him, and helped groom and plait his mane!
And the youngsters really had a day out to remember.
Kathryn Knox, who is a finalist in the upcoming Miss Northern Ireland competition, has taken on Sensory Kids as her chosen charity.
The 25-year-old, from Broughshane, is a Construction Health and Safety Advisor.
A competitive horse-rider, she qualified for the 2020 competition that was postponed due to the pandemic.
It was at her mum Heather’s farm at Lisnamurrian Road that the youngsters met up with ‘Mr. Pickles’ - and three of his much bigger friends, ‘Springvale Greatest Showman’, ‘Springvale O’Grady’ and ‘Braeview Codege’!
The big horses looked on as ‘Mr. Pickles’, and the children, took centre stage!
Kathryrn’s charity Sensory Kids is a charitable organisation based in Houston’s Mill, in Broughshane.
A few weeks ago the Guardian reported that Sensory Kids have plans to become a Centre of Excellence!
At that time Manager Mary Connor told the Guardian that long term they would love to run a multi-functioning, accessible autism centre for families, providing support and services to children and young people and their families on the autism spectrum.
“This would be a 'Centre of Excellence' where families can come to enjoy a unique mix of education and professional therapies under one roof,” outlined Mary.
“It would support autistic children/young people across the spectrum, whatever their age, life stage or challenge.”
And she said they aim to provide the children/young people with a safe and secure environment that will reduce their anxieties, promote their development and help parents to understand their children's needs.
“We would provide for them in a way that makes them feel understood. We want to develop and add new services and reach new families whilst continuing to network closely with other agencies and groups in Northern Ireland,” said Mary.
Kathryn said it was a pleasure and delight to be involved with Sensory Kids.
“The work they do is absolutely amazing,” she said. “And the kids really enjoyed their visit, out in the fresh air, seeing the animals and being able to inter-act with ‘Mr. Pickles’.”
Mary Connor said it was fantastic to have been invited out to the farm, and thanked Kathryn and her mum for hosting them.
“The children really enjoyed the visit,” she said.
On arrival at the farm three-year-old Theo McFall, from Ahoghill, accompanied by his parents Joanne and Stephen, wasted little time getting acquainted with ‘Mr. Pickles’.
Before long he was helping groom and offering carrots to his new friend.
Holly, from Dunclug College, observed the situation while her little sister Harper (7) was quite quick off the mark to help groom and feed, while mum Cheryl looked on.
While this was taking place ‘Pip’ the family Jack Russell, usually the centre of attention when visitors arrive, had to play second fiddle and took herself for a walk around the yard.
Secretary of Sensory Kids Committee, Lauren McLaughlin, and Committee member, Nicola Galbraith, both attended the visit.
Both were more than impressed at the way everything went.
It is likely a few more such visits will be organised in the not too distant future.
Sensory Kids currently offer a specialised service and have been supporting children, young people and their families from 2014.
In January of this year they became a charity.
“The key to our success has been good governance from all our Trustees and supporters. We have our own sensory room providing sensory support, parent support, workshops and sensory sessions to the Mid & East Antrim area and wider Northern Ireland.”
Mary said they pride themselves in having an understanding of the needs of autistic children/young people, including actual experiences of those on the autistic spectrum, as well as informative insight into services available.
“We see ourselves as, a valuable piece of a puzzle that can be the perfect match for a child’s success. Parents appreciate our help in providing their children with specialised sessions that fit their unique learning styles and perspectives,” said Mary.
Sensory Kids recently received funding from Ballymena Borough Council, YouthAction NI and the National Lottery Community NI which was much needed and appreciated.
“The funding will be used to provide training, sensory boxes, sensory sessions, educational awareness and sensory equipment,” said Mary.
Sensory Kids offers volunteering opportunities and support their volunteers to gain a recognised certificate supported by the Department of Education through the ‘Millennium Volunteers’ programme.
This is available to young people under 30 years old (they do not take volunteers until they are 16 years of age).
If any young person would be interested in developing their volunteering skills either with ‘Sensory Kids’ or ‘Learn with Lauren’ to enhance their UCAS application, please get in touch.
Contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.