A PASSIONATE nursery team are working hard to raise funds to create a sensory garden for their children with special educational needs.
Dedicated staff at Haven Nursery School in Gosport offer support for children with additional needs in the Acorn Room, alongside the nursery’s mainstream provision.
The Acorn Room provides intense learning to help children thrive and hopefully transition into the mainstream nursery, and it has become a lifeline for parents since it was created four years ago, with some travelling from as far as Whiteley and Portchester.
Michelle and Damien Paul had Haven recommended to them by a paediatrician, and have since sent both of their sons to the nursery, with three-year-old Riley currently learning in the Acorn Room.
Michelle said: ‘The moment you mention Haven, everyone raves about it. It’s been a long journey, and the support they give the families and the children is just second to none.
‘If something doesn’t work, they’re not afraid to try something different. It’s just an extended family and you know you’re not on your own.’
Another parent, Samantha Robinson, praised the nursery as her four-year-old son, who has autism, was nonverbal but is now starting to speak with help from staff at Haven.
‘Every single member of staff at Haven will look at me and smile and ask if I need a hand, everybody here is so committed.’ said Samantha.
Staff member Sarah Hyndman has launched a campaign to raise funds to create a sensory garden outside the Acorn Room, as the children love spending time outside and use the garden every day, whatever the weather.
Lead practitioner Hannah Martin said: ‘We have some children that stay in the Acorn Room for two or three years and then they go to special school.
‘A lot of children transition into the mainstream nursery and mainstream school, it’s not a holding pen, it’s a place where children learn and grow and those children who can adapt to mainstream will be transitioned.
‘Our garden is not made for children with sensory needs, and school funding is so tight that we can’t pay for it.’
After raising £30,000 from a new wheelchair for her son Noah, who has muscular dystrophy, Sarah decided she wanted to give something back to the children at Haven, so is organising a fundraising ball at the Solent Hotel.
Mum-of-three Sarah, who has worked at Haven for nine years, said: ‘I’d love to give to bigger charities but you don't see the reward, so I wanted to do something where I would see the effects.
‘When they go in the garden, that’s their time to be them so I wanted it to be somewhere they love.’
The Valentine’s Ball on February 8 will run from 7pm to midnight and includes a three-course meal, fun casino, photo booth and DJ to entertain guests.
Sarah is appealing for raffle donations from local businesses so they can raise as much money as possible towards the garden, to get in touch email email@example.com. Tickets cost £40 and can be obtained through the nursery.
Haven Nursery School holds Saturday groups to help parents train and learn more about helping children with special educational needs, also helping neurotypical siblings to understand a bit more by meeting children who are similar to their siblings.
Staff have been supporting schools in the area with improving their specialist provision, and are keen to work with more schools.
Hannah said: ‘We’re really keen to help other schools, these children are thriving here and we want them to go into school and thrive. We want to be that outreach project to support them.
‘We just want to get in more schools to offer a training package of communication, behaviour and play.’